Health minister testifies in €2.37m ambulance procurement case

The Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, on Tuesday testified as witness in the ongoing ambulance procurement case against Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, Member for Parliament (MP) for Ajumako Enyan Esiam. 

Dr Ato Forson, who is a former Deputy Minister of Finance, and two others, Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, and Richard Jakpa, a businessman, are standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss of €2.37 million to the state in a 200 ambulances deal for the country between 2014 and 2016.

They all pleaded not guilty to the charge and are currently on bail. 

Led in evidence by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, the witness told the court that the case came to his attention when was appointed the Minister of Health. 

Mr Agyeman-Manu said he was appointed as Chairman of the Transition Committee on Health after the changeover of government.

He indicated that “During the transition deliberations, it came to my notice that ambulances were supposedly procured by the Ministry of Health, but had not been delivered. Later after the transition, I was appointed as substantive Minister of Health.” 

Mr Manu tendered documents in evidence to the court, and the case has been adjourned to July 8.

The facts according to prosecution are that Dr Forson, also a Ranking Member on the Finance Committee of Parliament, and the two others breached the procurement law in the purchase of the ambulances.

Prosecution said 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’s Department  authorising the release of GH¢806,688.75  to the Minister of 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. 

Dr Forson also 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

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