Ato Forson, two others ordered to open defence in ambulance acquisition case

An Accra High Court has ordered Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, Minority leader in Parliament, to open his defence in the 2.37million Euro ambulance case. Two others, Seth Anemana, a former Chief of Director, Ministry of Health and Richard Jakpa, a businessman, who are standing trial with Dr Forson have also been directed to open defence. Dr. Forson and the two have been variously charged with willfully causing financial loss to the state to the tune of 2.37 million Euros in the purchase of ambulances, which could not be utilised for their intended performance. The court order came after it ruled in a submission of no case filed by the accused persons at the end of the prosecution’s case against them. The court held that Dr Forson ought to prove that he indeed had the authority to write the Letters of Credit concerning the purchase of the ambulances. Dr Forson through his lawyers, had stated that he did not issue letters of credit and insisted that the charges preferred against him were baseless. The defence further argued that the prosecution had woefully failed to establish a case against Dr Forson and the two others person, and posted that the State was only abusing its prosecutorial powers. The court has therefore adjourned the matter to April 11, 2023, to file witness statements and show the court who the witnesses were. Dr Forson, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) legislator for Ajumako, and a Ranking Member on the Finance Committee of Parliament, and the two others, according to the facts, 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 pound 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 GHS806, 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 pound 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 had other defects. A further inspection by Silver Star Auto, at the request of the Ministry of Health, revealed that the vehicles were not originally built as ambulances and were not fit to be converted for that purpose. A total amount of pound 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 matter until November 2021, when he started raising concerns about the 2022 Budget and the Economic Policy of the Government

Source: Ghana News Agency