The trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive took an interesting turn when a former Director of Finance at COCOBOD, mounted the witness box and educated the court on procurement procedures and “rigorous” process any payment to a supplier is subjected to.
Former COCOBOD Chief Executive Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Mr. Seidu Agongo together with Agricult Ghana Limited are standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss to the state and breaching the Public Procurement Act between 2014 and 2016 cocoa seasons.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GHS300,000 self-recognisance bail each.
Dr. Opuni, in particular, has been accused of writing procurement letters to the PPA to purchase fertilizer, which prosecution claimed was untested.
But Charles Tetteh Dodoo, who is the first witness called by Dr. Opuni when he opened his case on Thursday, November 2, told the court that it is the scientists at the CODAPEC/ HITEC unit that indicate the fertilizers to be purchased, they also indicate a specific company that supplies a specific item and they will also give the price per unit.
The witness explained the involvement of Dr. Opuni in those transactions.
He was categorical that all letters that go out of the COCOBOD head office are signed by the Chief Executive irrespective of whoever wrote them.
As a Director of Finance with direct supervision over the Procurement Unit of COCOBOD, he reiterated that procurement letters to the Public Procurement Authority to purchase fertilizers during Dr. Opuni’s era were written by the Procurement Manager but signed by the Chief Executive.
“As the audit manager at the head office, and in January 2013 as deputy director internal audit, I have done audit at procurement and I know what happens there. And when I assumed office as director of finance with the procurement unit under me, the procurement manager write the letters, I vet them, when ok, I ask the manager to take them to the CEO for signature,” Mr. Dodoo said while giving his evidence in chief.
Shedding more light on procurement related issues, the witness told the court:
“One of the units that is very critical at the budget stage is the CODAPEC / HITEC unit. This is a specialised unit made up of scientists from CRIG. This unit, in every year will determine the quantities of agrochemicals i.e. fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides that will be needed. They will also indicate the specific company supplying specific items. They also give the price per unit of all chemicals. This unit deals with all suppliers and report directly to deputy CEO A and QC .This position is occupied by directors from CRIG…”
Asked whether in 2014, the letters written by the procurement unit to PPA include the approval to purchase lithovit liquid fertilizer, he responded in the affirmative yes.
“How did you know this fact?” lawyer Codjoe asked him, which he replied:
“As director of finance, when the payments were being made for the [lithovit] fertilizer I was in charge of the payment. The payment goes through a rigorous process. All the payments are forwarded to the audit department. All letters relating to the purchase of the fertilizer, copies will be given, then audit will go through the origin of the letters from the procurement letters through to the PPA letters to the entity tender committee before the audit manager will write letters giving clearance to the items received to be paid for.”
Mr. Charles Tetteh Dodoo was a member of the COCOBOD board from 2009 to 2017 as a representative of both junior and senior staff of COCOBOD and suggested that when COCOBOD first established contact with Agricult to supply them with lithovit liquid fertilizer in 2013, Dr. Opuni had not even joined COCOBOD.
Excerpts of the Proceedings
Q: Mr Doodo, you told this court about your movement from CHED, can you please tell us where you went to when you moved from CHED?
Ans : in September 2010, I was transferred to Quality Control Company limited as senior audit manager. In October 2011, I was promoted deputy finance manager for QCC. In January 2013, I was transferred to Ghana Cocoa Board head office as head of audit in charge of quality control and training. In February, 2014, I was appointed Director of Finance till I left in January 2017.
Q: what are your qualifications?
Ans : I hold Commonwealth Executives Masters from KNUST. I am a fellow member of the Certified Chartered Accountants . I am a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ghana and I hold a practice certificate as an external auditor. I hold a professional qualification in internal auditing from Institute of Internal Auditors of the USA.
Q: As director of finance, which department or units were under you?
Ans : we have the normal finance from the accounts department under me and also the procurement unit under me.
Q : you informed this court about the procurement unit being under you. How was procurement commenced in cocoa board when you were there?
Ans : COCOBOD major procurement emanates from the approved budget. For one to understand the budget processes, I need to remind this court that COCOBOD’s financial year do not start as the ordinary year. COCOBOD’s financial year starts from 1st October of a year to the 30th September of the next year.
So for example, in 2014, the budget was started from 1st October, 2013 and end in September 2014. So the budget for 2014 will be prepared in April 2013 and approved around November 2013 because the price of cocoa is announced usually in October.
One of the units that is very critical at the budget stage is the CODAPEC / HITEC unit. This is a specialised unit made up of scientists from CRIG. This unit, in every year will determine the quantities of agrochemicals i.e. fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides that will be needed. They will also indicate the specific company supplying specific items. They also give the price per unit of all chemical. This unit deals with all suppliers and report directly to deputy CE A and QC. This position is occupied by directors from CRIG. So during the budget, they come with qualities of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides and their unit prices. So this information is always in the budget. When the budget is approved, the procurement unit takes the budget, extract relevant information from the budget. A copy of the procurements from the budget is sent to PPA.
Q : Now Mr Dodoo, let’s limit ourselves to the procurement of fertilizers for each cocoa season. How is the procurement of fertilizers done in cocoa board?
Ans : up till 2013/ 2014 year, I stated the CODAPEC/ HITEC units provided relevant information being the company, quantities etc as they delt with the companies. The procurement unit will pick the price to PPA for approval. When PPA grants the approval, the procurement manager who serves as the secretary to entity tender committee will send these approvals from the PPA to entity tender committee for concurrent approval.
Q : Mr Dodoo, you stated that the procurement unit writes letters to PPA for approval. Who signs these letters?
Ans : I used the phrase, the procurement unit writes to PPA because actually that is what happens but actually no one signs any letter going out of COCOBOD head office except the Chief Executive. So the procurement unit will write, then the CE will sign.
Q : How do you know this fact i.e. that the procurement unit writes the letter to PPA but the CEO signs ?
Ans : As the audit manager at the head office, and in January 2013 as deputy director internal audit, I have done audit at procurement and I know what happens there. And when I assumed office as director of finance with the procurement unit under me, the procurement manager write the letters, I vet them, when ok, I ask the manager to take them to the CE for signature.
Q : so Mr Dodoo, in 2014, which unit wrote the letters to PPA for purchase of fertilizers?
Ans : as per the practice, the procurement unit will write for the CE to sign.
Q : Mr Doodo can you tell us some of the fertilizers used by COCOBOD in 2014, 2015 and 2016?
Ans : my Lord per the letters that came through my table when I was deputy internal audit and when I served as head of the board’s sub committee on finance , when I attended budget hearing, when I assumed the position as director of finance and when I attended the entity tender committee and my personal inspection at the warehouses at Spintex road and Nsawam, the fertilizers I paid for included lithovit liquid fertilizer, sidalco liquid fertilizer amongst others .
Q: Mr Dodoo, in 2014, you mentioned that the procurement unit wrote letters seeking approval to purchase fertilizers to the PPA. Why did COCOBOD write to seek approval from PPA.
Ans : my Lord my little knowledge about the Public Procurement Act requires that sole sourcing can only be done with their approval. Fertilizers fall under proprietary rights and so the scientist at the CODAPEC/ HITEC unit when they indicate the fertilizers to be purchased, they also indicate a specific company that supplies a specific items and they will also give the price per unit.
Q: so in 2014, did the PPA letters written by the procurement unit include the approval to purchase lithovit liquid fertilizer?
Ans : yes My Lord.
Q: how did you know this fact.?
Ans : As director of finance, when the payments were being made for the [lithovit] fertilizer I was in charge of the payments. The payment goes through a rigorous process. All the payments are forwarded to the audit department. All letters relating to the purchase of the fertilizer, copies will be given, then audit will go through the origin of the letters from the procurement letters through to the PPA letters to the entity tender committee before the audit manager will write letters giving clearance to the items received to be paid for.
Q : in 2015, did the procurement unit write letters to PPA for the sole source of some fertilizers?
Ans : yes my Lord
Q: what were the fertilizers?
Ans : many of them. Lithovit liquid fertilizer, sidalco, one from wienco , Chemico.
Q : how do you know that the 2015 letter to PPA for approval to purchase lithovit liquid fertilizer was written by the procurement unit of COCOBOD.
Ans : in April 2014, I was the director of finance. when I assumed office within that period, changes were done in the reporting line of the CODAPEC / HITEC unit. The unit was reporting directly to deputy CEO A and QC but the chances made them to report to CHED. With their new unit in which they found themselves all their correspondence goes to the executive director.
Anything about procurement that gets to the executive director of that unit, he sends it to the procurement unit at COCOBOD.
Q : now Mr Dodoo, you have earlier on today told this court that you vetted letters isn’t it ?
Ans : yes my Lord
Q : in 2015, did you vet the PPA letters which was for sole source for lithovit liquid fertilizer.
Ans yes my Lord
Q : in 2016, did you vet the PPA letters which was for sole source for lithovit liquid fertilizer.
Ans: yes my Lord. When I resumed office as director of finance I vetted all procurement letters before it goes to the PPA.
Q: can you look at exhibit L? A letter to the executive secretary to cabinet.
Have a look at the letter. who wrote the letter?
Ans : this is a letter written by the procurement manager. when one looks at those copied, the list of those who have been copied the last person copied is the procurement manager and then on top of the procurement manager is the national project coordinator followed by CODAPEC/ HITEC then you have the director of audit going up to director of finance, then you have the three deputies but the letter has been signed by the CE as I stated. Between the procurement manager and the CE, there is director of finance who reports to deputy CE F and A. If the chief executive writes letters of his own, he has no business giving copies to…
Q : now Mr Dodoo, in this letter, exhibit L, you have the prices and quantities of various fertilizers there in. How was the prices obtained?
Ans : between April and May 2013, when CODAPEC / HITEC unit presented its budget, they would obtain these prices from the suppliers and one would observe that because the process takes a bit of time from around April 2013 when CODAPEC/ HITEC submitted their program for execution in 2014, the suppliers always prefer quotes in dollars. so the procurement in writing the letter will take extracts from the budget and write to PPA. it is for that reason why CODAPEC/ HITEC unit was copied.
Q: can you now look at exhibit M. Exhibit is dated 13th February 2014.
Ans : yes my Lord.
Q: and it is addressed to who?
Ans : the letter is addressed to the minister for finance and economic planning.
Q : who wrote this letter?
Ans : this letter was written, exhibit L, by procurement manager with inputs from CODAPEC/ HITEC units.
Q : why do you say so?
Ans : per the distribution list, on top of the procurement manager, we have the national project coordinator. So it tells the one who wrote the letter with inputs from CODAPEC/ HITEC
Judge : case adjourned to Monday 6th December.
Source: Daily Mail GH