The Attorney-General (AG) and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has expressed his dissatisfaction over the six-year trial of former COCOBOD CEO, Stephen Opuni.
In the Attorney-Genaral’s view, the failure of the court and judiciary to prosecute the former COCOBOD CEO is unacceptable. He added that long trials affect the fight against corruption.
Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo, a Businessman, are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the State, money laundering, and corruption by a public officer in contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognizance bail.
Speaking to journalists in Accra, Godfred Dame said more complex cases are resolved speedily and is surprised that Opuni’s case has taken this long.
“We have witnessed the failure of the High Court to resolve the Opuni trial for the past six years. This is simply unacceptable. It is unacceptable for such a case to stay in court for six years when other more complex cases of murder are speedily resolved.
“This development deepens the injustice and inequity in our society and the judiciary clearly has to play its part and the judges also in the eradication of corruption.”
State claims against Dr Opuni
Dr. Opuni from January 2014, the state claims, conspired with Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd to secure a GH¢43.1 million fertiliser contract even though they “knew it to be false at the time of making” the contract that the company could supply the fertiliser from Germany.
The fertilisers, supposedly from Germany, were meant for the 2013/2014 farming season.
This same strategy runs through two other contracts given out in the three farming seasons from 2014 to 2016.
By the time Dr. Opuni was a year in office, a similar contract for the 2014/2015 farming season was dished out to the same supplier at a cost of GH¢75.3 million.
By the next 2015/2016 farming season, the contract sum for the fertiliser for that season jumped to 98.9 million cedis.
This brings the total amount of payments to 2.17 billion cedis in three years, sums paid by COCOBOD which in 2016 needed to raise a $1.8bn loan to buy cocoa beans from farmers.
Contrary to the contractual agreement requiring Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd to procure the fertilisers from Germany, the company produced the products locally.
The fertilisers were manufactured without registration in contravention of the Plants and Fertiliser Act 2010.
These fertilisers branded Lithovit Foliar were then supplied to COCOBOD.
The state claims that Dr Opuni had agreed to act with the other two to willfully cause financial loss to the state.
The contracts in 2014 and 2015 worth 43.1 million cedis and 75.1 million respectively were awarded through sole sourcing. But the procedure for sole-sourcing was not followed, the state claims.
The 2014 contract was awarded without any price quotation, effectively giving the supplier a blank cheque.
The Chief Executive, according to state prosecutors, also accepted a 25,000 cedi bribe from Seidu Agongo in October 2014.
He would later misrepresent facts to the Public Procurement Authority in his efforts to ensure Agricult Ghana obtained the contracts unfairly.