Details behind the charges levelled against former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, and businessman Seidu Agongo have emerged.
The details explain why COCOBOD cancelled contracts of four companies, resulting in arbitration hearing as the four companies challenge the cancellations.
All the four contracts are said to belong to Seidu Agongo. COCOBOD has also withdrawn the certificates issued for the supply of fertilisers.
COCOBOD has also dismissed one staff and suspended another for three months.
These actions emanated from the recommendations of a committee set up to investigate alleged malpractices in the testing of some agro-chemicals at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) – Tafo.
The committee identified fabrication of reports recommending purchase of fertilisers that have not been tested or have not gone through the full trial as some of the reasons for the action.
COCOBOD has terminated the appointment of Alex Asante Afrifa, principal research scientist, for misconducting himself in several ways, which led to the procurement of millions of dollars worth of fertiliser which had not been properly tested for use on cocoa.
Dr Richard Adu-Acheampong, principal research scientist, has also been suspended for three months on grounds that he allegedly misconducted himself when he recommended the product to be used on cocoa at the time he knew that Residue Analysis had not been done.
Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), on October 4, 2017, constituted a four-member disciplinary committee headed by Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, Deputy Chief Executive (A&QC).
Other members of the group were J.D. Clottey-Sefa, Director of Legal Services; Francis Akwasi Opoku, acting Solicitor Secretary; and George E. Ferguson Laing, Deputy Legal Manager. The committee held sittings at Cocoa House on October 9, 12, and 20, 2017 to conduct the inquiry.
The contract of companies supplying Akati Power, Duapa Cocoa, Metacide and Lithovit fertilisers were cancelled based on allegations that their testing trials were compromised.
Akati Power did not go through full trial
According to the report, Akati Power fertiliser, distributed by Alive Industries Limited, did not go through full trial because Dr Stephen Opuni, the then CEO of COCOCOD, instructed the lead scientist, Dr Richard Adu-Acheampong, to shorten the trial process.
It said the product was submitted on April 24, 2014 and a report was issued on October 13, 2014, which means the trial lasted for six months.
It noted that the October 13, 2014, report was not the final report from the scientist because Residue Analysis had not been done.
However, the report said a certificate was issued for the product at the time a Residue Analysis had not been done and a final report not issued.
The committee concluded that the lead scientist, Dr Adu-Acheampong misconducted himself when he recommended the product to be used on cocoa when he knew that Residue Analysis had not been done.
In addition, Dr Adu-Acheampong was accused of misconducting himself when he allegedly ignored the Ghana Standard Authority report indicating that the concentration in the chemical product was too high.
Contract for Akati Power abrogated
The contract between COCOBOD and Alive Industries Limited should be abrogated on the point that the product did not go through the full trial.
The principal research scientist, Dr. Adu-Acheampong, who was in charge of the testing, should be suspended for three months and certificate issued in respect of the product withdrawn.
No field trials for Duapa fertiliser
The committee’s report noted that that there were no field trials of the Duapa fertiliser, supplied by Sarago Limited, since no samples were submitted to CRIG.
It accused Afrifa of fabricating the report on Duapa fertiliser as the other scientists named in the report as co-authors – Dr Alfred Arthur, soil science division; Jerome Dugbatse, research scientist; and Dr Ofori-Frimpong – denied knowledge of the reports.
Consequently, the report said the claim that trials were conducted in various parts of the country is false; therefore, the recommendation in the report that Duapa fertiliser could be used on matured cocoa has no scientific basis.
In the report, Dr Opuni was accused of insisting that Afrifa shorten the process of certifying the product, and as a result, the only basis of the recommendation is that the product shared similar properties with other already approved products like Asasewura and Cocoafeed.
Abrogation of Duapa fertiliser contract
The committee recommended abrogation of the contract between COCOBOD and Sarago Limited and the certificate issued in respect to the product withdrawn.
It described as gross misconduct by Afrifa, the issuance of a report claiming that field trials for Duapa fertiliser had been conducted when in fact no such trials had been conducted.
He also recommended that the product be used on matured cocoa.
Afrifa’s contract terminated
In view of the above, the committee recommended that the appointment of Afrifa be terminated for gross misconduct.
Lithovit fertiliser not tested
The committee stated that the report on Lithovit, distributed by Agricult Gh Ltd, was written by Afrifa without any input from Mr Jerome Dogbatse and Dr Alfred Arthur, even though Lithovit liquid fertiliser was not tested.
According to the committee’s report, the samples submitted were not liquid, but rather powder, adding that the trials that were conducted did not go through the full cycle, and it was only on two-month-old seedlings.
The recommendation to use Lithovit on matured cocoa trees has been described as without scientific basis since no trials were conducted on matured cocoa trees with Lithovit fertiliser.
The committee’s report accused Afrifa of grossly misconducting himself when he issued a report claiming that field trials for testing on Lithovit and Duapa fertilisers had been conducted when in fact they had been done.
Test report from the Chemistry Department of University of Ghana
The committee explained that the sample test report from the Chemistry Department of University of Ghana clearly indicated that the samples of Lithovit submitted might be the fertiliser Lithovit, which was highly diluted.
The test report from the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana also stated that the amount of the Lithovit found in the sample examined was very small and might compromise the outcome of its application.
GSA report indicates that Lithovit was adulterated
The final test report from Ghana Standards Authority stated that the sample could not be classified as pesticides, fungicide or fertiliser, the committee said.
The report of the committee noted that the sample had been adulterated and did not meet the specifications of the standard, and the sample is also not recommended for the intended purpose.
The committee said that the GSA report concluded that the sample cannot be used as foliar nutrient on cocoa from nursery, growth and yield stages, and that is harmful to human and animal, as well as hazardous to water.
The report said the application of Lithovit on cocoa farms from nursery, growth and yield stages remains experimental because there is currently no evidence in relation for Lithovit application on cocoa plants.
In view of the above, the committee said that the certificate issued for Lithovit was not for liquid fertiliser.
Dr Opuni, in a letter dated February 25, 2014, requested Agricult to quote 700,000 litres of Lithovit fertiliser (i.e. liquid fertiliser), and in March 2014 signed $19.2 million ($19,250,000) when Lithovit liquid fertiliser had not been tested and approved.
The committee said Agricult Company Limited submitted a quote for Lithovit liquid fertiliser when they knew that they had not submitted Lithovit liquid fertiliser for testing.
Lithovit contract terminated
The committee recommended that the contract for the purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser should be abrogated and the certificate withdrawn.
Consequently, the committee asked that the conduct of Dr Opuni and Afrifa, the scientist who issued the report on the Lithovit and Agricult Limited, the supplier, should be reported to the state investigation bodies for investigations regarding the approval and procurement of millions of dollars worth of the product, which had not been properly tested for use on cocoa.
Review of testing system at CRIG proposed
It also proposed a review of the system of testing at CRIG to make it more stringent and independent of the individual scientists who conduct the testing.
Overhaul of Committee on Testing Chemicals and Machinery
The Committee on Testing Chemicals and Machinery (CTCM) must be overhauled to bring in randomly selected experts from academia, as well as scientists from the institute, as pertained in the past.
Metacide contract abrogated and certificate withdrawn
The report observed that even though there was no final report issued on Metacide, distributed by USICO Limited, an order was placed.
As a result, the committee said there was no basis for the issuance of the certificate, and there was also no evidence that the product works on cocoa. It recommended that the contract for the purchase of Metacide should be abrogated and the certificate withdrawn.