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Ambulance case: AG challenges Seth Terpker’s claim of authorizing Ato Forson to request LCs

  Fri, 20 Oct 2023
Headlines Ambulance case: AG challenges Seth Terpkers claim of authorizing Ato Forson to request LCs
FRI, 20 OCT 2023 LISTEN

Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has challenged claims by former Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, that he authorized Minority Leader, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, to establish letters of credit for the defective ambulance deal.

Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson is standing trial with two others for counts of causing financial loss to the state in the purchase of 50 faulty ambulances.

The case against the Minority Leader is that he requested the letters of credit which formed the basis for the payment of the ambulances to the tune of 2.3 million Euros without authorisation, a claim he has denied.

On Thursday, his former boss Seth Terkper testified in his favour, explaining that contrary to claims by the state, Dr. Ato Forson acted on his express approval.

In his witness statement, Seth Terkper noted, “For the avoidance of doubt, I state again that, I as the then Minister of Finance, authorized A1 (Dr. Ato Forson) to request the Bank of Ghana to set up the LC (Letters of Credit) with the sole objective e of avoiding potential financial liability for the Government”.

The Attorney-General Godfred Yeboah Dame, however, during cross-examination inquired from the witness to point to exhibited documents that prove that he indeed gave authorization to Dr. Ato Forson.

But Mr. Seth Terkper explained that the authorization followed advice from the Attorney General's department. According to him, the Attorney General had forwarded a letter written to the Ministry of Health to his outfit asking that steps be taken to honour the terms of the contract.

He further explained that the letters from the Attorney General were subsequently forwarded to the legal department of the Ministry of Finance.

The legal department according to the witness (Seth Terkper) advised that “the minister consider signing the loan agreement between Government of Ghana and Stanbic Bank for 15 million Euros for this project to enable the establishment of the letter of credit in line with the ministry of health obligation for the establishment of the letters of credit”.

Based on this, Seth Terkper explained that a meeting was held with the accused person and other directors of the Ministry of Finance, where a decision was taken on the issuance of the letters of credit.

But Attorney-General Godfred Yeboah Dame further inquired for Mr Terkper to point to a specific document authored by him to the legal department of the ministry on which its advice was based.

Mr. Terkper clarified that the documents relied upon by the legal department were prepared for his office, and there was no need for him to have written a letter to the legal department.

Godfred Yeboah Dame, however, prompted the witness' attention to the fact that a letter written by the debt division of the ministry of finance on the establishment of letters of credit noted the instruction came from the deputy finance minister at the time, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson.

Mr. Seth Terkper explained that the decision for the letters of credit to be established had been taken and Dr. Ato Forson was only “exercising his routine delegated responsibility as deputy minister in charge of the budget”.

The Attorney-General also asked the witness to point to any statement from the then Attorney General requiring the establishment of the letters of credit, as he had under cross-examination explained that the decision was based on the advice of the Attorney General's department.

Mr. Terkper insisted that even though he did not see any such statement in the Attorney General's letter, the advice requested for them to comply with the supply agreement which contained the term for the establishment of the Letters of Credit.

Godfred Yeboah Dame further questioned the witness on the propriety of the letters of credit. In his line of questioning, the principal legal advisor of the state indicated that even though the agreement required the issuing of the letters of credit be done after a contract for the delivery of 50 ambulances had been signed, the request for letters of credit were made at a time the said contract had not been signed.

The former finance minister reiterated that even though the said contract had not been signed, the request for the establishment of the letters of credit was based on the advice from the Attorney General's department and the legal department of the Ministry of Finance.

On making payments before the ambulances were delivered, contrary to the dictates of the contract, Mr. Terkper explained that the problem lies with the Ministry of Health and not the Ministry of Finance.

Questioned if the payments were made in error, Mr. Terkper, answered in the affirmative but clarified that it was 'nothing that major, conditions for the contract had been breached, and our attention has been drawn.'

-citinewsroom

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