Stop misleading the public: Your prosecution not related to 2022 budget concerns-AG to Ato Forson

On December 23, 2021, the Attorney general filed charges against a former Deputy Finance Minister and MP for Ajumako Enyam Essiam, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, and two others for causing financial loss to the state.

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The Attorney General of the Republic has described as misleading, allegations by Member of Parliament for Ajumako Enyam Essiam, Cassiel Ato Forson relating his criminal prosecution by the state to comments and concerns he raised about the 2022 Budget and Economic policy.

According to the AG, the MPs Press Conference on  December 24, 2021, was laden with factual misrepresentation and calculated at scandalizing the criminal proceedings pending in the High Court thus exposing the AG to prejudice and hatred.

In a response letter signed by a Deputy Attorney general, MS Diana Asonaba Dapaah, the AG notes further that investigations into financial crimes perpetrated against the Republic of Ghana in the matter of the failed purchase of an ambulance for the State began in 2017 and had been ongoing with several statements taken from various persons at different points in time, including the current Speaker of Parliament, former Health Minister, and others.

Also, it adds that contrary to the claims by the MP, as at the commencement of the investigations, no issue relating to the 2022 Budget and Economic Policy of Government had either come up or was contemplated.

On December 23, 2021, the Attorney general filed charges against a former Deputy Finance Minister and MP for Ajumako Enyam Essiam, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, and two others for causing financial loss to the state.

The two are Sylvester Anemana, former Chief Director at the Ministry of Health, and a Businessman, Richard Jakpa.

They have thus been charged on the counts of willfully causing financial loss to the Republic, abetment of crime, contravention of the public procurement act and intentionally misapplying public property.

According to the suit filed by the Attorney General, the charge relates to the procurement of 200 Ambulances during the Professor Atta Mills led Administration.

It continues that Cabinet on December 22, 2011, endorsed an Executive approval granted for a joint memorandum submitted by the Minister for Health and Deputy Minister for Finance and Economic Planning for the purchase of the ambulances out of a medium-term loan facility of €15. 8 Million to be paid out of a credit arrangement between Stanbic Bank and GOG through the Ministry of Finance.

Furthermore, it states that the memorandum to Parliament did not make reference to any role to be played by either Big Sea General Trading Limited (Big Sea), Dubai, UAE or the agents for Big Sea, Jakpa at Business Limited in the transaction nor did it also refer to the terms under which the ambulances would be procured or the terms under which the two companies would be involved in the transaction.

Also the 2nd accused person in a letter dated 19th November 2012, falsely indicated that the reason for the single-sourcing was because Big Sea had arranged for funding for the project.

By an agreement dated 19th December 2012, the Government of Ghana, formally contracted with Big Sea General Trading LLC in Dubai, for the supply of 200 Mercedes Benz ambulances at a contract sum of €15,800,000.00 and at a unit price of €79,000.

Additionally, 30 ambulances that had been shipped as of 12th February 2015 had fundamental defects. A further inspection by Silver Star Auto Limited at the request of the Ministry of Health disclosed that the vehicles were not originally built as ambulances and were therefore not fit to be converted for that purpose. A total amount of €2,370,000 was paid for the 30 vehicles.

The Minister of Health, Mr Alex Segbefia requested an inspection of a well-equipped ambulance vehicle that meets specifications. After a visit to Dubai by a team led by the CEO of the National Ambulance Service, Big Sea promised to send a technical team to Ghana to rectify the defects. This has however not been done.

On December 24, 2021, at a Press Conference, Hon Ato Forson insisted that the only role he played relative to the purchase of the ambulance in question was an instruction for the establishment of letters of credit and wondered why such role could become a subject of a criminal inquiry. “A cursory reading of the frivolous and politically motivated charges shows that my only role in the entire transaction was to have signed a letter on behalf of the Minister of Finance, in my capacity as Deputy Finance Minister, for the establishment of letters of credit by the Bank of Ghana and payment by the Controller Accountant General of the charges for the letters of credit. If I may ask, ladies and gentlemen of the press since when did ministerial instruction for the establishment of letters of credit become a crime in this dear country of ours?.

He also wondered why nothing was heard of the investigation until November 2021, a period of four years, when I started raising concerns about the 2022 Budget and Economic Policy of the Government.

On its part, the Attorney general has assured the public that its outfit will zealously prosecute crimes bothering on abuse of public funds which have fully been investigated and are considered to be worthy of prosecution insisting that all persons in Ghana are equal before the law; an MP and ordinary citizens alike.

Moreover, it is entreating all political commentators and self0styled CSOs to refrain from undue public commentary on the criminal action instituted against the MP thus permitting the streams of justice to flow unhindered.