The attention of the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Justice has been drawn to a press statement by Cassiel Ato Forson, Member of Parliament for Ajumako-Enyan-Essian Constituency and Ranking Member of the Finance Committee of Parliament, titled as above and read at a press conference by the Member of Parliament on 24th December, 2021.
The said press statement was laden with factual misrepresentations and calculated at scandalising the criminal proceedings pending in the High Court, Accra against the Member of Parliament and exposing the Attorney-General to prejudice and hatred.
The Office of the Attorney-General considers the allegation by the Member of Parliament that, his prosecution for a crime bordering on a misapplication of public funds and wilfully causing financial loss to the State whilst holding office as Deputy Minister for Finance between 2013 and 2017, is related to concerns the Member of Parliament had “started raising about the 2022 Budget and Economic Policy of the Government’, rather absurd and misleading.
For the record, investigations into financial crimes perpetrated against the Republic of Ghana in the matter of the failed purchase of ambulances for the State began in 2017. The same had been ongoing since 2017 with a number of statements taken from various persons at different points in time, including the Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin, former Minister for Health (now Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana), Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Mensah, Madam Sherry Ayittey and Dr. Alex Segbefia, all former Ministers for Health as well as the first accused.
At that time, no issue relating to the 2022 Budget and Economic Policy of the Government had either come up or was contemplated. In June, 2021, the investigations proceeded to finalise preparations by the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service towards the commencement of criminal proceedings against persons deemed fit for prosecution by the Attorney-General. Further statements were taken from various persons. At that stage, no issue relating to the 2022 Budget and Economic Policy of the Government had come up.
The Attorney-General hereby assures the public that, as the protector of the public interest, and in the spirit of the immutable principles of accountability, justice and probity enshrined by the Constitution of Ghana, the Office of the Attorney-General will zealously prosecute crimes bordering on abuse of public funds which have been fully investigated and are considered to be worthy of prosecution. All persons in Ghana are equal before the law. The status of a Member of Parliament is no bar to prosecution for a crime committed.
As stated in the facts of the case filed in court, on 22nd December, 2011, Cabinet endorsed an executive approval of a joint memorandum submitted to Cabinet by the then Minister for Health and the first accused Cassiel Ato Forson, then Deputy Minister for Finance, for the purchase of 200 ambulances out of a medium-term credit facility of € 15,800,000.00 between Stanbic Bank Ghana Limited and the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Finance.
On 1st November, 2012, the Parliament of Ghana granted approval for the financing agreement between Stanbic Bank Ghana Limited and the Government of Ghana for the purchase of 200 ambulances at a price of €15,800,000.00.
By an agreement dated 19th December, 2012, the Government of Ghana contracted a company in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates described as Big Sea General Trading LLC (Big Sea), to supply 200 ambulances to the Government, even though that company was unknown to the Cabinet and Parliamentary approvals regarding the transaction. By the terms of the agreement, advance payment for the contract was prohibited. Payment for the vehicles was stated in the agreement to be through letters of credit established for twenty-five percent of the Contract Price “upon the delivery of every fifty (50) Ambulance Vehicles”.
On 7th August, 2014, in disregard of the financing arrangement for the transaction approved by both Cabinet and the Parliament of Ghana, the first accused, Cassiel Ato Forson authorized the Bank of Ghana to “urgently establish the letters of credit for the supply of 50 ambulances amounting to EUR3, 950,000.00, representing 25 percent of the contract sum’. At this time, not a single ambulance had been delivered.
On 12th August, 2014, the first accused also directed the Controller and Accountant-General to pay the sums of GHC806, 688. 75 representing bank charges covering the establishment of letters of credit for the supply of 50 ambulances, and further directed for the amount to be charged against the Capital Expenditure Vote for the Ministry of Health. All these directives by the first accused were contrary to the agreement for the supply of the ambulances as well as the Parliamentary approval regarding the financing of the transaction.
Pursuant to the unlawful directives of the first accused, Big Sea shipped 30 vehicles in three consignments between October, 2014 and February, 2015, which were fundamentally defective and lacking in the basic requirements for an ambulance. This is confirmed by a letter written by the then Minister for Health, Dr. Alex Segbefia and other assessments by the National Ambulance Service. In point of fact, the vehicles turned out to be unfit to be converted into ambulances.
In the circumstances, throughout the remainder of the tenure of the John Mahama administration (from December, 2014 to January 2017), the vehicles were never converted into ambulances.
The Office of the Attorney-General takes note of comments by some commentators aligned to the first accused, Cassiel Ato Forson, suggesting that the Member of Parliament was not a “deal maker” in the transaction, and says that, the facts stated above speak for themselves.
The Attorney-General hereby entreats the general public, particularly political commentators and persons styling themselves as civil society, to permit the streams of justice to flow unhindered by refraining from undue public commentary on the criminal action instituted against the Member of Parliament for Ajumako-Enyan-Essian and two other citizens of Ghana.
DEPUTY ATTORNEY-GENERAL AND DEPUTY MINISTER FOR JUSTICE
FOR: THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL AND MINISTER FOR JUSTICE
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