Former Finance Minister Seth Terkper testified before an 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 Letters of Credit in favour of Big Sea General Trading Ltd of Dubai for the supply of 30 ambulances.
Mr Terkper informed the Court presided over by Justice Afua Serwaa Asare Botchwey that he testified as the star witness for the defense in a case brought against Minority Leader, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, and two others.
He stated that the authorization was granted during a special management meeting he presided over at the Finance Ministry 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 in order to avoid payment of judgement debt if Big Sea sued the government due to lengthy delays and breaches of the contract.
The former Finance Minister denied the Attorney General’s accusations that Dr. Forson set established the LCs without reasonable cause or authorization.
Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, the Minority Leader, has been charged with two counts of deliberately causing financial harm to the state by establishing letters of credit in favour of Big Sea for the provision of ambulances “without due cause and authorisation.”
In his witness statement, Mr Terkper explained that he received an opinion from the Attorney General in 2014 stating 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 ambulances and breaches by the government of Ghana.
Mr Terkper stated that the AG’s letter to him stated unequivocally that “all governmental approvals had been obtained” for the deal and that the letter was binding on all government entities involved in the transaction.
He went on to say that the LCs in question were set up on a “approval basis,” which meant that the Ministry of Health had to indicate their approval of Big Sea’s documentation proving the shipment of the ambulances before authorizing the Bank of Ghana to make payment under the LC if they were satisfied that Big Sea had met all conditions.
He stated that the establishment of the LC, which fell under the purview of the Finance Ministry, was distinct from payment, which had to be approved by the Ministry of Health, and questioned how the Ministry of Finance could be blamed for any defects in the ambulances when the Ministry of Health was responsible for determining their state and condition.
Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, and businessman Richard Jakpa are on trial in connection with the 30 ambulances’ importation.