Former Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, has told an Economic and Financial Court in Accra, that he directed his then Deputy, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, to write to the Bank of Ghana requesting for Letters of Credit to be set up in favour of Big Sea General Trading Ltd of Dubai, for the supply of 30 ambulances for Ghana.
Mr Terkper, who testified as the star witness for the Defense in a case brought against Minority Leader, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson and two others, told the court presided over by Justice Afua Serwaa Asare Botchwey, that the authorization by Dr. Forson to request for the establishment of the Letters of Credit was given at a special management meeting he chaired at the Finance Ministry.
He said the meeting followed a legal opinion they received 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 judgment debt if Big Sea sued the government due to lengthy delays and breaches of the contract.
He said claims by the Attorney General that Dr. Forson caused the LCs to be set up without due cause and authorization were untrue.
Dr. Ato Forson has been charged with two counts of wilfully 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 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 judgment debt.
Mr Terkper indicated that 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.
He 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 authorize 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.
Dr. 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 the 30 ambulances said to be defective.