A former Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, will make his second appearance in court today for allegedly causing financial loss to the state in the procurement of 200 ambulances for Ghana between 2014 and 2016.
The accused, who is a Member of Parliament for Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam Constituency was in court with his lawyers on Monday but one of the two alleged co-accused was absent on medical grounds.
Mr Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director, the second accused in a letter to the court, presided over by Afia Serwaa Asare-Botwe explained that he had a medical appointment on Monday.
For this reason, Justice Asare-Botwe adjourned the case to today, Tuesday, January 18 at which proceedings the plea of the accused would be taken.
Messrs Forson, Anemana and Richard Jakpa, local representative of Big Sea General Trading Limited were charged with wilfully causing financial loss to the state, abetment of crime namely, ‘wilfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procumbent Act, 2003, contrary to section 92 (2) (b) of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) and intentionally misapplying public property
The lawmaker was accompanied to court by leading National Democratic Congress (NDC) former appointees and party executives including Mrs Marrietta Brew Appiah Oppong, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
The facts are that Dr Forson, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP, who is also a Ranking Member on the Finance Committee of Parliament, and the two others breached the procurement law in the purchase of the ambulances.
On August 7, 2014, Dr Forson wrote to the Bank of Ghana (BoG) “urgently requesting to establish the Letters of Credit for the supply of 50 ambulances amounting to €3,950,000, representing 25 per cent of the contract sum, while arrangements were being made to perfect and sign the loan agreement in favour of Big Sea”.
On August 12, 2014, Dr Forson wrote to the Controller and Accountant-General authorising the release of GH¢806,688.75 to the Minister for Health for the payment of bank charges covering the establishment of Letters of Credit (LCs) for the supply of 50 Mercedes Benz ambulances and related services.
The facts indicated that Dr Forson further directed that the LCs should be charged to the budget of the Ministry of Health contrary to the Parliamentary approval on the funding for the supply of the ambulances.
The Controller and Accountant-General on the authority of the letters dated August 7 and 12, 2014, written by Dr Forson to the BoG authorised it to establish an irrevocable transferable LCs in the sum of €3,950,000 in favour of Big Sea.
By February 2015, 30 ambulances had arrived in Ghana and a post-delivery inspection revealed that they had no medical equipment and there were other defects.
A further inspection by Silver Star Auto, at the request of the Ministry of Health, disclosed that the vehicles were not originally built as ambulances and not fit to be converted for that purpose. A total amount of €2,370,000 was paid for the 30 vehicles.
However, Dr Forson at a press conference on December 24, 2021, said he would not be distracted in holding the government accountable and described the charges against him as frivolous and politically motivated.
He noted that although the investigation into the purchase of the ambulances started in 2017, nothing was heard of the investigation until November 2021, when he started raising concerns about the 2022 Budget and Economic Policy of the Government.
BY MALIK SULLEMANA