The Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament Rt Hon Alban Bagbin has described the trial of the Minority Leader, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson in the ambulance case as ‘persecution’.
He believed that the law must be made to work but not in the form of a ‘gamble’ which he said is happening in the case against Dr Ato Forson.
Mr Bagbin said these when he visited the spouse and family of the Late Former Majority Leader in Parliament, Felix Kwasi Owusu-Adjapong to commiserate with them.
Speaking to the Family on Thursday, October 19, the former Nadowli/Kaleo lawmaker said “The Majority Leader [Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu] indicated to me that he had to come ahead, he had some challenges to attend to in Kumasi so he will not be available.
“The Minority Leader, unfortunately, is being persecuted so on a number of these occasions he can’t be with us because he is appearing in court, as of now, he is in court being tried. It is not that we don’t want the rule of law to apply, we all want it to apply but where prosecution is just a gamble, ‘I may win or I may not win but let me do it’, I will not prescribe that for any politician because as a leader you always have to take the risk, you could get it right, you could get it catastrophically wrong.”
“Could you be prosecuted because of that? Then there will be tribulation, nobody will have the courage to come out boldly and take decisions where things are really hard.”
“These are some of the things that we have to take on board as we continue to work together in Ghana. It happens all over the world, it is not only in Ghana, these things happen worldwide, you can go to the UK and, the US, and they don’t go into prosecution, there are other ways of handling these things. He has been absent the day we were going to President Kufuor’s place he was in court, and today too he is in court.”
Regarding the trial of Dr Forson and two others, Former Finance Minister Seth Terkper appeared in court on Thursday, October 19 to testify as the star witness for the Defense.
He told the Economic and Financial Court in Accra that he fully authorized 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.
Mr Terkper testified as told the Court that the authorization for the accused to request the establishment of the Letters of Credit (LCs) was given at a special management meeting he chaired at the Finance Ministry.
He said he gave the directive following the receipt of a legal opinion 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 judgement debt if Big Sea sued the government due to lengthy delays and breaches of the contract.
He said claims by the current Attorney General that Dr Ato Forson caused the LCs to be set up without due cause and authorization were untrue.
Minority Leader Dr Cassiel Ato Forson has been charged with two counts of willfully 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 if the latter went to court over undue delays in the execution of the contract for the supply of the ambulances and breaches by the Government of Ghana.
Mr Terkper indicated that the AG’s opinion to him was 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. Cassiel 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.