Seth Terkper, a former Finance Minister has testified before an Accra Economic and Financial Court that he gave his then-deputy, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, full permission to write to the Bank of Ghana and request that Letters of Credit (LCs) be established in favor of Big Sea General Trading Ltd of Dubai for the supply of ambulances.
The authorization for Dr. Forson to request the establishment of the Letters of Credit was given at a special management meeting he presided over at the Finance Ministry after receiving a legal opinion from the Attorney General and the Ministry’s Lega. Mr. Seth Terkper testified as the star witness for the Defense in a case brought against Minority Leader, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, and two others. The court was presided over by Justice Afua Serwaa Asare Botchwey.
In order to avoid paying a judgment debt if Big Sea sued the government over protracted delays and contract violations by the government of Ghana, the aforementioned advice was for the Ministry of Finance to ensure the execution of a contract between the Government of Ghana and Big Sea for the supply of 200 ambulances.
He disputed assertions made by the Attorney General that Dr. Forson was responsible for the LCs being set up without justification or consent.
By causing Letters of Credit to be established in favor of Big Sea for the supply of ambulances “without due cause and authorization,” Minority Leader Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson is accused of two counts of willfully causing financial loss to the state.
The Attorney General’s opinion, which Mr. Seth Terkper said he received in 2014, stated that failing to carry out the contract with Big Sea would result in a judgment debt if the latter went to court over excessive delays in the execution of the contract for the supply of the ambulances and breaches by the government of Ghana. Mr. Terkper went on to elaborate on this in his witness statement.
The AG’s opinion, according to Mr. Seth Terkper, was unequivocal that “all governmental approvals had been obtained” for the contract, and it was binding on all government agencies involved in the deal.
He added that the LCs in question were set up on an “approval basis,” meaning that the Ministry of Health had to sign off on the paperwork from Big Sea attesting to the shipment of the ambulances before approving the Bank of Ghana to pay Big Sea in accordance with the LC. If they were satisfied that Big Sea had complied with all requirements, they would then proceed to authorize the Bank of Ghana to do so.
He claimed that while the payment had to be approved by the Ministry of Health under certain conditions, the establishment of the LCs, which was under the purview of the Finance Ministry, was different.
The former Minister of Health questioned how the Ministry of Finance could be held accountable for any ambulance flaws when the Ministry of Health was in charge of determining their condition.
In relation to the importation of the 30 ambulances, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, Dr. Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, and Businessman Richard Jakpa are on trial.