Cocobod Blew $93.5m On Untested Fertilizer Under Opuni
Dr. Stephen Opuni
It has emerged that Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) under the tenure of Dr. Stephen Opuni spent about $93.5 million to purchase ‘untested’ liquid Lithovit fertilizer.
Four separate contracts were allegedly awarded to Agricult Ghana Limited, whose Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Seidu Agongo, is on trial alongside the former COCOBOD boss for the supply of a total of 3.4 million litres of the liquid fertilizer between February 2014 and the later part of 2016.
A former Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COCOBOD, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, stated this when he appeared before an Accra High Court where Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo are facing trial for causing financial loss to the state and other charges.
The witness, who continued his evidence-in-chief led by Evelyn Keelson, a Chief State Attorney, told the court that the contract for the supply of the liquid fertilizer was awarded although “there is no document at COCOBOD indicating that any of such liquid fertilizer had been tested by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).”
Dr. Adu-Ampoah told the court that documents at COCOBOD, including the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on the fertilizer, indicated that the fertilizer that was tested at CRIG in 2013 was greyish powder and not liquid.
However, COCOBOD awarded a contract for the supply of 700,000 litres of the liquid fertilizer at a cost of $19.25 million in March, 2014, and another contract for the supply of one million (1,000,000) litres of the same fertilizer at a cost of $27.5 million in 2015.
According to the witness, again in 2016, Dr. Opuni awarded another two separate contracts for the supply of the liquid fertilizer; 700,000 litres at a cost of $19.25 million and a one million litre contract worth $27.5 million.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah told the court that because of the anomalies in the fertilizer tested and the one supplied in the contract, COCOBOD reported the matter to EOCO and also wrote to Agricult Ghana Ltd to suspend the supply of the liquid fertilizer in the 2nd December contract.
The witness also revealed that tests by both the Ghana Standards Authority and the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana indicated differences between the tested fertilizer as indicated in the MSDS and the liquid fertilizer.
“We reviewed the MSDS and the information on it was that the Lithovit fertilizer was powder and grey and also it had active ingredients of calcium carbonate at 84.5 per cent and magnesium carbonate at 4.6 per cent,” the witness revealed.
However, “The Ghana Standard Authority report stated that the calcium carbonate present in the liquid fertilizer was 0.0002 per cent as against the 84.5 per cent calcium carbonate in the MSDS. The magnesium carbonate was 0.0002 per cent as against the 4.6 per cent in the MSDS. And they concluded that the product cannot be classified as fertilizer and it cannot be applied on mature cocoa to increase yield.”
“The University of Ghana Chemistry Department also concluded that the amounts of the two active ingredients present in the product were insignificant and the product cannot be applied on mature cocoa to increase yield,” Dr. Adu-Ampomah added.
The witness also told the court how Dr. Opuni allegedly ordered scientists at CRIG to shorten the testing time of fertilizers on cocoa which led to the approval of Lithovit fertilizer although it was only tested on cocoa seedlings but not on mature cocoa.
He told the court that the lead scientist at CRIG at the time, A. A. Afrifah, who appeared before a committee set up to look into anomalies in the testing of agrochemicals at COCOBOD, stated that no liquid Lithovit fertilizer was tested at CRIG.
The court also heard how Dr. Alfred Arthur, a soil scientist at CRIG, told the committee that he had no idea how his name appeared on a report which indicated that Lithovit fertilizer, when applied to 50 grams per litre on mature cocoa, can increase yield.
Hearing continues tomorrow.
By Gibril Abdul Razak