Godfred Yeboah Dame
The Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has asserted that his office has succeeded in establishing a case against former Deputy Minister for Finance, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson and two others standing trial for the purchase of ‘ordinary vans’ as ambulances for the Ministry of Health in 2015.
The AG, in a written submission filed before an Accra High Court, avers that a consideration of the evidence led at the trial so far by the prosecution should lead to the conclusion that the prosecution has satisfied all the elements of the offences contained in charges preferred against the accused persons.
He also submits that the evidence given orally by the prosecution’s witnesses was buttressed by a large volume of documents directly confirming the truth of assertions made by the witnesses which were not challenged.
Dr. Ato Forson, Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director at the Ministry of Health, as well as private businessman, Richard Jakpa, are standing trial for allegedly willfully causing financial loss of €2.37 million to the state, through a contract to purchase 200 ambulances for the Ministry of Health, among other charges.
The prosecution, led by Mr. Dame and Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Atakora-Obuobisa, closed its case on February 14, 2013 after calling five witnesses, including the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu to prove its case.
Submission – Ato Forson
The prosecution points out that the actions of Dr. Ato Forson directly led to financial loss to the state in the purchase of the vehicles purporting to be ambulances.
It said by a letter dated August 7, 2014, signed by Dr. Ato Forson, he instructed the Bank of Ghana to urgently establish an irrevocable transferable Letter of Credit (LC) in the sum of €3,950,000 in favour of Big Sea General Trading LLC as payment for the ambulances to the Ministry of Health.
The prosecution argues that this authorisation for the LCs to be established resulted in the payment of €2,370,000 for the supply of vehicles by Big Sea General Trading LLC, which did not meet the description of an ambulance.
According to the prosecution, Dr. Forson’s actions, judged in light of the terms of the contract governing the transaction, showed that he violated the duty he owed as a public officer with responsibility over the use of the public purse by virtue of his status as a Deputy Minister of Finance in 2014, stating his actions were “criminally negligent and most unwarranted.”
The prosecution argues that Dr. Forson’s instruction for LCs to be established, were contrary to the terms of the “ambulance contract”, since none of the conditions set out in the contract before payment could be made, had been satisfied.
It said the Deputy Controller and Accountant-General, relying on Dr. Forson’s letters, wrote to the Bank of Ghana for payment to be made after which the vehicles were shipped contrary to the terms of the agreement.
“It is indisputable, on the facts established at the trial, that, first accused’s (Dr. Forson’s) actions and omissions led to the loss to the state,” the AG argued.
The Attorney General further avers that Dr. Forson did his actions without any further “authorisation” from any quarters as a careful examination of the record does not disclose any so-called authorisation by the former Minister for Finance, Seth Terkper or any superior officer.
The prosecution said Mr. Terkper’s actions around the same time that Dr. Forson’s letters were written, showed a completely different inclination, as the Minister rather was working on reviving the Stanbic facility which was the parliamentary-approved means of payment for the transaction.
The prosecution also argues that it was Dr. Forson’s recklessness in not ensuring that the terms of the agreement were adhered to that caused all the problems and resulted in the institution of the criminal case against him.
Regarding Mr. Anemana, the prosecution submitted that he was the designer of the scheme to cause financial loss to the state by falsely claiming to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) Board in a series of letters to the effect that Big Sea had arranged for funding for the project from Stanbic Bank.
It said Big Sea was never mentioned in any of the memos to Cabinet or Parliament and was never approved by Parliament, hence, Mr. Anemana knew that Big Sea’s contract with the Government of Ghana had to be approved by Parliament before same would be valid.
On Mr. Jakpa, the prosecution submitted that he was the sole shareholder and also a director of Jakpa at Business, the agent for Big Sea General Trading LLC of Dubai, and he was therefore, uniquely aware that the vehicles he imported into Ghana were ordinary vans and not what was contracted for, leading to a loss to the Republic.
It said Mr. Jakpa connived with Big Sea to unilaterally change the vehicle specifications, although Big Sea had admitted in a letter to the Ministry of Health that the version of the vehicles the parties had contracted for was unavailable.
It said without consulting the Ministry of Health, Mr. Jakpa and Big Sea changed the vehicle specified under the contract, so he was aware that the vans which arrived in Ghana were not the ones contracted for.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak