The former Deputy Minister for Finance, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, has vehemently denied ever authorising the Controller and Accountant General (CAG) to write to the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to establish a Letter of Credit (LC) for the purchase of some 200 ambulances.
According to him, the letter from the CAG to the BoG made no mention of his name or copied to him in his capacity as the Deputy Finance Minister.
Hitherto, he stated that neither did he use the wording “authorise” in a letter he signed on behalf of his sector Minister, Seth Terkper, to the Central Bank in the establishment of the LC.
He told the trial court, presided over by Justice Afia Serwaa Asare Botwe, yesterday, that before the start of negations for the procurement of the ambulances, he had not been appointed a deputy Minister of Finance.
Speaking through Godwin Tamakloe, who was holding brief for Dr. Abdul Aziz Bamba, the people’s representative for Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam and Leader of the Minority Caucus in Parliament, he said after his ordinary statement in respect of the matter was taken in November 2017, he was not contacted again until November 2021.
These issues were while Mr. Tamakloe was crossing examining the prosecution fourth witness, who also happened to be the investigator in the case, Rockson Gyimah.
Dr. Forson is standing trial with Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, and Richard Jakpa, a businessman.
The Member of Parliament (MP), together with the others, has been dragged to the Accra High Court by the Attorney-General on five counts of willfully causing financial loss to the Republic of Ghana to the tune of €2.37 million, abetment to willfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, and intentionally misapplying public property.
They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Before Mr. Tamakloe took his turn to cross-examined the witness, the former was led to give his evidence-in-chief by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Godfrey Yeboah Dame.
Q. Please give your full name to the court?
A. Rockson Gyimah.
Q. Why do you live?
Q. What work do you do?
A. I am an investigator.
Q. Do you know the first accused (A1), Dr. Forson?
A. Yes. I know A1 as a Deputy Finance Minister and also as someone I investigated as part of ambulance purchase.
Q. Do you know A2?
A. I know the A2 as the former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health.
Q. Do you know A3?
A. Yes. I know the third accused as the sole agent of Big Sea in Ghana.
Q. You said you investigated what you described as the ambulance case. Do you recall if any witness statement was recorded from you?
Q. Take a look at this document.
A. It is my witness statement. It is signed by me.
AG: We pray that it is adopted as evidence-in-chief of the witness.
(The witness read the full statement before being adopted into evidence.)
Cross-examination by Mr. Tamakloe
Q. As you testified this afternoon, are you still with EOCO?
A. No. I am with the Office of the Special Prosecutor.
Q. How long have you been with the OSP?
A. For the past six months.
Q. In the course of your investigation, you stated that an ordinary statement was taken from A1?
Q. Were you the one who took that statement from him?
A. We were a team.
Q. The first accused was invited to EOCO in the company of his lawyers. Were you there when he came that day?
A. I was engaged somewhere that day.
Q. In fact, I will be correct to say the day he came to EOCO in the company of his lawyers it was your Deputy Director, Nana Antwi, who did the interrogation?
A. I was engaged somewhere.
Q. I will be correct to say that when the first accused came to EOCO the statement form was given to him to go home and write his statement and return it to the office. Is that correct?
A. I will not know.
Q. From the day the first accused returned the statement to your office, you personally never spoke to him until the day you took his cautioned statement? Correct?
A. Yes, my Lady.
Q. In fact, you were never part of any panel that even asked for his opinion on the material allegations you made in your witness statement?
A. I took the charge statement personally.
Q. You were never part of a panel that interrogated the first accused?
A. I was part of the panel that took the charge statement from him.
Q. And this charge statement was in 2021. Correct?
A. If my memory serves me right, yes.
Q. The ordinary statement was taken in November 2017, correct?
A. If my memory serves me right, yes.
Q. So from November 2017 till November 2021, when you took the charge statement from him, you never called the first accused to appear before you for the purpose of putting these allegations contained in Paragraph 44 in your witness statement before him. Correct?
A. The only time I met the first accused was the time I was taking the Charge Statement. The Charge Statement was an opportunity for the first accused to speak to the allegations before him.
Q. And that was November 2021.
Q. And that applies to the allegation Paragraph 45 of your witness statement. Is that correct?
Q. And the same applies to Paragraphs 46, 47 and 48 of your witness statement. Correct?
A. Yes, my Lady.
Q. In the course of your investigation was there any time that you invited the former Controller and Accountant General under whose tenure the LC was established?
A. My Lady, the team wrote to the Controller to invite the Schedule Officer who worked on this particular LC. But the information from the Controller was that the Schedule Officer was on pension.
Q. I am putting it to you that throughout this investigation there was no time that a statement or opinion of the then Controller and Accountant General was taken?
A. No, a statement was not taken.
Q. In the face of your statement that no statement was taken from the then Controller and Accountant General, do you still stand by L48 of your witness statement?
A. My Lady, these were documentary evidence we obtained as part of the investigation.
Q. In P48 you say… Controller and Accountant General wrote to BoG. Is that correct?
Q. As you testify now have you seen the said letter the Controller and Accountant General wrote to the BoG requesting for the establishment of the Irrevocable LC?
A. Yes. Exhibit B.
Q. Read from the exhibit where the then CAG, Andrew Kufe, said the authority of BoG to establish the irrevocable LC was based on the order of the first accused?
A. The letter from the Deputy CAG made reference to the letter written by the Finance Ministry dated August 7, 2014. As part of investigations it was revealed that without the authorisation of the Ministry of Finance, [the] Controller on its own cannot write to the Bank of Ghana to establish an LC.
Q. On the face of Exhibit B, nowhere did the Deputy Controller, Andrew Kufe, say he is authorising the Bank of Ghana on the authority of the first accused?
A. As I have answered earlier, the letter from the Deputy Controller made a reference to the letter written by the Ministry of Finance, which was signed by
Q. You will agree with me that the letter on the face of it did not name A1?
A. Yes, but the letter made reference to a letter authored by A1.
Q. You will note that of all the officers copied, A1 was not copied?
A. Yes. But the letter was authored by the former Deputy Minister of Finance.
Q. Exhibit B1 and B2 the first accused signed for the Minister?
Q. And in these two letters the first accused copied the Minister?
A. But in the course of our investigation the team spoke to the then Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper, and he stated that upon his assumption of office there was moratorium on loans and government expenditure, and also the team got a letter he wrote to Big Sea where the Minister was informing them that the loan agreement had elapsed and efforts are being made to operationalise… investigators further obtained a letter which indicated that the then Deputy Minister of Finance had instructed that the LC be charged against the Ministry of Health’s budget.
Q. Is this the statement Mr. Terkper gave to you?
Counsel: I wish to tender the document into evidence.
No objection raised and the document was admitted into evidence.
Q. This letter is dated December 2018?
Q. As at November 2021, when you took the Charge Statement of the first accused, you knew about the content of the letter as the investigator?
Q. Can you read the statement [of] Seth Terkper to the hearing of the court?
Witness reading […]
Q. From the day that Mr. Terkper gave this statement you never spoke to him again?
Q. So you see from Exhibit 5 for A1, you personally never took any additional statement from Mr. Seth Terkper?
Q. From the letter, the former Head of the Ministry of Health said the LC was established against the Ministry of Health budget?
A. Yes, but he said that was his brief recollection and subject to future documents… but investigations revealed that the then Minister of Finance clearly indicated that he was trying to renegotiate a loan which had been approved by Parliament as the source of funding for the ambulance. But the other letter by the Schedule Officer at the Ministry of Finance clearly indicated that the Deputy Minister of Finance had also indicated that the LC be charged against the Ministry of Health budget.
Q. So from the letter, you personally never took any additional statement from Seth Terkper?
Q. The former Finance Minister never denied knowledge of the establishment of the LC?
A. Yes. But he never admitted authorising the former Deputy Minister.
Q. In the course of investigation, you personally never interview Mr. Terkper?
A. I did.
Q. This interview was not recorded personally.
A. I interviewed him, and he wrote the statement in my presence.
From page 2
Q. As far as your interview of Seth Tekper is concerned, and the statement he gave you he never denied knowledge of the ambulance or establishment of the LC?
A. In the course of giving the statement he stated that the LC was established.
Q. In the statement Seth Terkper gave you he clearly stated that the Ministry of Finance asked for the establishment of the LC?
A. The letter was authored by the Deputy Minister of Finance.
Q. You will agree with me that the head of the Ministry of Finance at the time A1 wrote Exhibits B1 and B2 was the Finance Minister, Seth Terkper. Correct?
Q. And these two exhibits were signed for him and copied to him.
A. On the face of the document, that is what is there. But during the course of investigations he did not admit that he authorised the Deputy Minister to author the letter in establishing the LC.
Q. From August 7, 2014 to the date your team took the statement of Seth Terkper you have not put before this court any evidence that A1 was queried for writing exhibit B1 and B2?
A. Yes, my lady.
Q. On the face of exhibit B1, there is nowhere A1 in writing for the Minister of Finance used the word authorised?
A. Yes. In the letter to BoG he indicated they are requesting, but in the letter to Controller authorised that [the] LC charged against the capital expenditures of the MoH, and also the amount in excess of ¢800,000 be released as bank charge which should also be charged as the Ministry of Health charges.
Q. As far as the undertaking is concerned the authority to debit came from the Controller and Deputy Controller?
A. Yes. But, as I stated earlier, the Controller on its own cannot write to the Bank of Ghana to establish an LC. It was done based on a letter written by the Deputy Finance Minister.
Q. As far as the establishment of the LC is concerned, the first accused is not mentioned anywhere?
A. On the face of the document.
Q. At the time the approval for the resolution for the financing agreement for the ambulance was nowhere at the Ministry of Finance. I am putting it to you.
A. I do not know.
Q. Did you in the course of your investigation establish when A1 was appointed as Deputy Finance Minister?
A. I did not.