Claims by the trial investigator, Chief Insp. Thomas Prempeh Mercer that board members of Cocobod were hoodwinked to approve the purchase of lithovit fertilizer suffered yet another credibility test on Thursday.
The investigator was categorical that none of the board members, except for COCOBOD’s Chief Executive, knew that lithovit was an untested product when the board approved its procurement for three consecutive seasons – 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Even when shown evidence by way of a statement given by the then board chairman of Cocobod to EOCO that “all the necessary rules and procedures for procurement of such particular chemical and fertilizers were strictly adhered to,” the investigator insisted that the board knew nothing about the fertilizer it approved.
“Yes My Lord My Lord, respectfully, I beg to say that the Board Chairman then, Mr Daniel Ohene Agyekum and the other board members excluding A1, did not know that they were approving for Cocobod to buy untested product same apply to the entity tender committee they also did not know that the product Lithovit that they were buying has not been tested by CRIG,” Chief Insp. Prempeh Mercer, who is the seventh prosecution witness, told the court on March 1 under cross-examination.
Although minutes of the entity tender committee that were shown to him in court did not support his assertion, the investigator stuck to his gun.
It however emerged, during cross-examination on March 11, that the CID investigation team never spoke to any board member at Cocobod that approved lithovit fertilizer during their investigation.
This revelation left many in the courtroom bewildered, leaving a begging question as to how an investigator with the rank of a chief inspector came to the conclusion that none of the board members knew that lithovit fertilizer was untested when his team never spoke to any of them.
Lawyer for Dr. Stephen Opuni, Samuel Cudjoe put it to the witness that apart from the then Board Chairman, he never spoke to any of the previous board members of Cocobod who were there during the tenure of 1st Accused.
He answered, “My Lord the investigations was centred on bringing out certain facts relating to a crime that had occasioned. Investigators will only speak to those who are connected to the case, those who had knowledge about the case and those from whom useful information could be obtained in the course of that particular investigation”.
In a related development, the investigator had previously told the court that he personally spoke to one Mr. Kutsuati on the allegation that he was present when a directive was given to scientists to shorten the testing of fertilizers.
He initially said he also took a statement from him but later pleaded with the court to check the CID’s docket if a statement was taken from Mr. Kutsuati.
However, during the last sitting on Thursday, March 11, Chief Insp. Prempeh Mercer admitted that he never spoke to Mr. Kutsuati as he had earlier claimed let alone take a statement from him.
The trial investigator has been testifying in the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD boss Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Mr. Seidu Agongo who are facing 27 charges including willfully causing financial loss to the State and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GHS300,000 self-recognisance bail each.
Read excerpts of the March 11 cross-examination
Q: Can you have a look at this statement dated 3rd May 2017 written by one Emmanuel Obeng a farmer.
A: yes my Lord
Q: Mr Emmanuel Obeng gave the statement to EOCO. Isn’t it?
A: Yes my Lord
Q: my Lord we want to tender the statement through him.
Document tendered not objected to, accepted and marked as Exhibit 69
Q: In this statement, the farmer who is known to the investigation, on the last three lines from the bottom stated that from his experience lithovit is good for the young and old trees, isn’t it
A: Yes My Lord, that is so
Q: At the last adjourned date i.e on the 1st of March 2021, you informed this court that you were not sure whether you took a statement from Kutsuati.
A: Yes indeed I said so
Q: I am putting it to you that you never spoke to him much more taking any statement from him.
A: My Lord Mr Kofi Kutsuati, the Deputy Executive in charge of operations at the time was one of some of the former officials that investigators could not meet to take statements from
Q: And I am also putting it to you that apart from the then Board Chairman, Daniel Ohene Agyekum you never spoke to any of the previous board members of Cocobod who were there during the tenure of 1st Accused.
A: My Lord the investigations was centred on bringing out certain facts relating to a crime that had occasioned. Investigators will only speak to those who are connected to the case, those who had knowledge about the case and those from whom useful information could be obtained in the course of that particular investigation.
The case has been adjourned to March 15 for cross-examination to continue