Former Finance Minister Seth Terkper has put on official record that he authorised his then deputy, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, to write to the Bank of Ghana, requesting Letters of Credit to be set up in favour of Big Sea General Trading Ltd of Dubai, for the supply of ambulances to the Government of Ghana.
According to Tekper, he gave the instruction to Dr. Forson to request the LCs following the receipt of a legal opinion from the Attorney General and the Ministry’s legal department to ensure the execution of a contract between the Government of Ghana and Big Sea for the supply of 200 ambulances to avert the payment of judgement debt if Big Sea sued the Government due to lengthy delays and breaches of the contract.
This critical disclosure puts to rest all doubts on whether Dr. Ato Forson acted on his own volition when he requested the said LCs or whether he, as a Deputy Finance Minister, acted under the official directive of his superior, the Finance Minister, in the interest of Ghana.
The former finance Minister, on Thursday October 19, 20203, told the Economic and Financial Court in Accra when he testified as a star witness for the Defense in the case brought against Dr Cassiel Ato Forson and two others.
Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, Dr. Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, and businessman Richard Jakpa are standing trial in connection with the importation of 30 ambulances.
Minority Leader has been charged with two counts of willfully causing financial loss to the state by causing Letters of Credit to be established in favour of Big Sea for the supply of ambulances “without due cause and authorization”.
Mr. Tekper in his witness statement explained that the authorisation for the accused to request for the establishment of the Letters of Credit (LCs) was given at a special management meeting he chaired at the Finance Ministry.
He said claims by the current Attorney General that Dr. Ato Forson caused the LCs to be set up without due cause and authorization were untrue.
Mr. Terkper elaborated further in his witness statement that he received an opinion from the Attorney General in 2014 which said that failure to execute the contract with Big Sea would result in judgement debt if the latter went to court over undue delays in the execution of the contract for the supply of the ambulances and breaches by the Government of Ghana.
He said the AG’s opinion to him was emphatic that “all governmental approvals had been obtained” for the contract and that the opinion was binding on all government agencies engaged in the transaction.
The former finance Minister further said that the LCs in question were set up on an “approval basis” which meant that the Ministry of Health had to indicate their approval of documentation from Big Sea proving the shipment of the ambulances and then proceed to authorise the Bank of Ghana to make payment under the LC if they were satisfied that Big Sea had met all conditions.
He said the establishment of the LC – which fell within the purview of the Finance Ministry – was distinct from payment which had to be approved by the Ministry of Health and wondered how the Ministry of Finance could be blamed for any defects in the ambulances when the responsibility for ascertaining their state and condition rested with the Ministry of Health.
In 2021, Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, and two others – Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health and Richard Jakpa, a businessman – were charged with allegedly causing financial loss of €2.37 million to the State in a contract with Big Sea General Trading Ltd to purchase some 200 ambulances for the country between 2014 and 2016.
They were slapped with five counts of willfully causing financial loss to the state, abetment to willfully cause financial loss to the state, contravention of the public procurement act and intentionally misapplying public property.
Dr Ato Forson’s main role in the case was that he issued letters of credit from the Bank of Ghana without due authorisation. Now though, Mr Terkper, who was his boss, the Finance Minister at the time, has told the Court that he duly authorised him to request the letters of credit.