It has emerged at the Accra Financial and Economic Court presided over by Justice Afia Serwaa Asare Botchwey that a former Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, did not authorize payment to Big Sea General Trading Ltd of Dubai for the supply of ambulances to the Ministry of Health.
Dr. Ato Forson and former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health Dr. Sylvester Anemana as well as businessman Richard Jakpa have been charged with causing financial loss to the state over the importation of 30 ambulances that formed part of a consignment of 200 under a contract signed between the Ministry of Health and Dubai-based firm, Big Sea Limited in 2012.
Answering questions during cross-examination by Dr Forson’s lead counsel, Dr Abdul Basit Bamba, second prosecution witness Edward Markwei Jr, who is Head of Trade Finance Unit of the Bank of Ghana and who worked on the letters of credit, disclosed that beyond signing a letter on the authority of the Minister of Finance, requesting for the establishment of letters of credit in favour of Big Sea Ltd, Dr Forson did not authorize payment to Big Sea.
Explaining further, Mr. Markwei Jr said that the mandate to approve payment under the LC lay with the Ministry of Health who were the applicants.
He also indicated that under the conditions of the LC, the Ministry of Health had to approve and accept documentation presented by Big Sea and authorize payment before it could be effected.
He said without the express approval of the Ministry of Health and their authorization, no payment could be made to Big Sea and that the funds guaranteed by the LC would be retained by government and the LC would expire after a certain date.
He confirmed that the Bank of Ghana by a letter dated 20th March, 2015 addressed to the Ministry of Health, requested them to approve shipping documents presented by Big Sea and give approval for payment of the first tranche of EUR 790,000.
He said two other payments of €790,000 each were made under an order by an Accra High Court and were not approved or authorized by Dr Forson.
Mr. Markwei Jr also told the court that his outfit never sought or obtained approval from Dr Forson for payment because the entity cloaked with that authority was the Ministry of Health
Mr. Markwei Jr had earlier admitted that a claim contained in paragraph 16 of his witness statement that Dr Forson requested for the establishment of “Irrevocable, transferrable letters of credit” were inaccurate and that there was no mention of “irrevocable, transferable” letters of credit in the letter signed by Dr Forson on 7th August, 2014.
Mr. Markwei Jr had already admitted at the last sitting of the court that the 7th August, 2014 letter requesting for the establishment of the LC in favour of Big Sea, was signed on the authority of the Minister of Finance.