Attorney General authorised execution of ambulance contract – Health Minister

Minister of Health, Kweku Agyeman-Manu, has disclosed at a Financial and Economic Court in Accra that the Attorney General’s Department wrote to both the Health and Finance Ministries to continue with the execution of the contract for the supply of ambulances with Big Sea LLC of Dubai.

Mr Agyeman-Manu told the court presided over by Justice Afia Serwaa Asare Botchwey, that after receiving a letter from the Lawyers of Big Sea informing them of their intention to sue the government of Ghana following delays in the execution of the contract, the AG’s Department, through then Deputy Attorney General, Dr Dominic Ayine, wrote to the Ministers of Health and Finance asking that they follow through with the contract “because it was legally binding.”

Reading copiously from the AG’s letter, Mr Agyeman Manu disclosed that the letter indicated that as far as the AG was concerned, there was no basis for a position by any of the parties to pull out of the agreement since they were bound by the terms in the agreement.

Reading further, Mr Agyeman-Manu disclosed that the AG stated that failure to carry out government’s obligations under the contract will “make it difficult for the government to put up a defence” in the event that Big Sea went to court.

The AG, according to Mr Agyeman-Manu, stated that having reviewed the documents presented by lawyers for Big Sea, he was satisfied that “all governmental approvals had been obtained” as this was a prerequisite for the execution of the contract.

The Minister of Health also told the court that upon receipt of the AG’s letter,the then Minister of Health, Sherry Aryeetey, wrote back to the AG, expressing concern over the lack of a Financing Agreement between the Ministry of Finance and Stanbic Bank for a loan to fund the purchase of the 200 ambulances.

Responding to a question by Attorney General, Godfred Dame, as to what happened after Sherry Aryeetey’s letter, Mr Agyeman-Manu said a letter was then written by the second accused to the Bank of Ghana requesting the establishment of letters of credit in favour of Big Sea.

According to Mr Agyeman-Manu, the letter requesting the LC was written “without recourse to the Ministry of Health”.

He also told the court that a second letter was written about four days later to the Controller and Accountant General authorizing him to release an amount of GHC 806,688.75 to the Ministry of Health covering payment for the establishment of the letters of credit and other related expenses.

After this, he said the then Minister of Health instructed the Chief Executive of the National Ambulance Service to inspect the ambulances which had been shipped into the country following payment to Big Sea.

He said the inspection by the Ambulance Service revealed some defects which the Ministry brought to the attention of Big Sea.

Big Sea, he said, wrote back acknowledging the defects and indicated their willingness to rectify the said defects.

Former Deputy Finance Minister, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson and former Chief Director of the Ministry Health, Dr Sylvester Anemana as well as businessman, Richard Jakpa, have been charged with causing financial loss to the state over the importation of 30 ambulances that formed part of a consignment of 200 under a contract signed between the Ministry of Health and Dubai-based firm, Big Sea Limited in 2012.

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