Mr Peter Osei Amoako, the Sixth prosecution witness in the trial involving Dr Stephen Opuni and two others, has said COCOBOD responded with a letter to Public Procurement Authority (PPA) confirming the value for money audit.
He said, “l only saw the letter; l do not have records of the audit report itself.”
Mr Amoako, in his evidence in chief led by Mrs Evelyn Keelson, Chief State Attorney, explaining how the 2013/2014 procurement was done, said a letter from the former CEO of COCOBOD, Dr Opuni was sent to Cabinet through the Ministry of Finance to procure Lithovit liquid fertiliser.
He said after that letter, another letter was sent to the Minister of Finance by the CEO.
“After that, the former CEO requested quotation from the company, Agricult Ghana Limited for the procurement of lithovit liquid fertiliser,” he added.
He said after the quotation, a letter was sent to PPA requesting approval to sole source 700,000 litres of lithovit liquid fertiliser at a cost of $19.5 million.
The witness said a response was received from PPA requesting COCOBOD to do value-for-money audit and the Board responded with a letter confirming the value for money audit.
He said PPA responded with the approval for COCOBOD to procure lithovit liquid fertiliser.
Mr Amoako, who is the Director of Finance at COCOBOD, said based on the records, there was a certificate from Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) dated January 22, 2014, valid up till December 31, 2014.
He said after the PPA approval, notification of award was signed by the CEO of COCOBOD to Agricult Ghana Limited.
He said the company then submitted a performance guarantee and based on the acceptance of the guarantee the contract was signed between COCOBOD by the CEO and Managing Director of the company.
The witness said 700,000 litres of lithovit liquid fertiliser was supplied by the company of which an inspection was carried out with all necessary documents attached and approval granted.
At this stage, the State tendered the two letters mentioned by the witness in open court, explaining that after diligent efforts to procure the original, they were unsuccessful but wished to tender the photocopy with the permission of the court.
There was no objection from other parties.
Mr Amoako said as the Director of Finance, he had an oversight responsibility of the financial activities of corporate Head office, subsidiaries, divisions and units and this involves maintaining the financial records of COCOBOD.
He said he made payment on transactions, management of funds, made reconciliation of banks, managed stores, took insurance of landed and mobile properties, in charge of taxation, responsible for budget preparation, responsible for debt recovery, payroll and salaries, responsible for the procurement unit, and management of funds of the divisions and subsidiaries.
On what constituted the Finance Department of COCOBOD, the witness said it was made up of financial reporting and assurance, cash office, reconciliation unit, reimbursement unit, stores, insurance, taxation, produce finance, debt recovery, stock control, payroll, bills, and the procurement unit.
When asked, who was the official custodian of COCOBOD’s financial records, Mr Amoako said the financial records of COCOBOD were under the Director of Finance at the Finance Unit.
The witness said until November 2018, all the procurement records were under the Finance Department but the procurement unit was elevated to a Department with a Director in Charge.
He said currently, the procurement Director was on leave and “I have been assigned additional responsibility over the procurement unit, so all the procurement documents are now under the Finance Director’s supervision.”
Asked to explain how the procurement process was generally done at COCOBOD, he said at the Board, the procurement processes started with the preparation of budgets.
He said the budgets were prepared by various units and consolidated as one budget for the whole institution after which it was forwarded to the Board for approval.
He said the consolidated budget was then referred to the Finance Committee of the Board for discussion, where the Committee would prepare their report based on the budget and submit to the Board for approval.
He said once the budget was approved, the procurement plan was extracted from the budget; the plan was also referred to the Board for consideration and approval.
“The Board will then refer the procurement plan to the procurement committee of the Board for discussion,” he said.
The witness said the procurement Committee would prepare their report and re-submit to the Board for approval and once the plan was approved, the plan was posted on the website of the PPA.
He said in the procurement plan, there would be various items and methods of procurement and depending on the time, COCOBOD would now initiate the processes for the procurement of the items in the plan.
Mr Amoako said depending on the method, it could be single sourcing, restrictive tendering, national or international competitive tendering.
“Whatever the method is, we will invite suppliers who tender for any goods or services then approval will be sought from the PPA,” he added.
He informed that once PPA had granted the approval, COCOBOD would issue a notification of award to the supplier and the supplier based on the notification, they would submit a performance guarantee.
The Director of Finance submitted that once the performance guarantee was accepted by the legal Department, a contract was prepared between COCOBOD and the supplier and the supplier would now deliver on the contract.
He said after delivering, COCOBOD would inspect the goods or services based on the contract signed and once everything was authenticated by the inspection team of COCOBOD, payment processes were initiated by the supplier submitting an invoice requesting for payment.
He said all the necessary documents would be attached and forwarded to audit for vetting and any payment beyond GHS10, 000 went to the CEO for approval before payment was made.
He said in the case of fertiliser, although fertiliser went through the same budgetary processes, before it was procured, it had to be tested for a minimum of two years at the CRIG.
He said once it had gone through the testing regime, a report was issued by CRIG and forwarded to the CEO for approval, and once the report was approved, CRIG issued a certificate to the supplier valid for a year.
“Once this processes have been completed, COCOBOD will now consider that particular fertiliser as part of the list of fertilisers to be procured,” he added.
He said based on this arrangement, suppliers would be requested to submit quotations, where the CEO would now send a letter to PPA to sole source those fertilisers.
The witness said once approval was granted, notification of approval was issued to the suppliers. The suppliers would then submit performance guarantees, where it would be vetted and Okayed by the legal Department.
He said “now that the contracts have been established between COCOBOD and the supplier with the signing of the parties, the supplier will have to perform his/ her part by delivering the goods to COCOBOD.”
He said with the delivery, an inspection team would inspect the fertilisers based on the contract signed and a report generated by the team. The supplier will initiate payment by submitting an invoice to COCOBOD.
“All necessary documentation will be forwarded to audit for vetting with recommendation from the audit unit for approval and payment,” he said.
He said it was at this stage that the “CEO gives approval for the bill” to be processed.
Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretence, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognisance bail each.
The case has been adjourned to November 9, 2020, for continuation.
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