The Office of the Attorney General is prosecuting a former deputy minister for finance, who is the National Democratic Congress’ leader in Parliament, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, and two others for causing financial loss to the state.
He, together with a former Chief Director at the Ministry of Health, Sylvester Anemana, as well as a private businessman, Richard Jakpa are standing trial for willfully causing financial loss of €2.37 million to the state, through a contract to purchase 200 ambulances for the Ministry of Health, among other charges.
A private company, Big Sea Trading LLC, the company that sold the ambulances to Ghana, has offered to refund €2 million to the state on behalf of the businessman, Richard Jakpa, the agent, in order for the state to discontinue the prosecution.
The company has proposed to refund the cedi equivalent in two tranches of €500,000 when the agreement is signed and then the remaining €1.5 million in six months.
The Daily Guide newspaper reported that the company, as part of the proposal, is also seeking the government of Ghana to return the 30 defective ambulances with all the accessories they came with, once repayment has been made, as well as discontinue the criminal prosecution of all three accused persons.
According to the newspaper report, the proposal sent to the Attorney General was necessitated by Big Sea’s desire to protect its interest across the West African sub-region, especially when it is not part of the ongoing trial and hence would not have the opportunity to defend itself against allegations that irreparably damage its reputation and business interests.
It has been reported, however, that the Office of the Attorney General has rejected the terms proposed by the company for various reasons, among which is the fact that the proposed money does not make up for the entire amount of money the state lost.
Another reason for the rejection of the proposal is that it only covers one of the three accused persons, the agent, but there is no admission of guilt by Mr. Jakpa or any of the accused persons, with respect to the charges leveled against them. The court adjourned the case to allow Mr. Jakpa to further negotiate with the Office of the Attorney General on the proposal put forward.
We appreciate the proposal that has come and the decision of the court to allow for further negotiations, which is the essence of the plea bargain, as entailed in the Criminal and Other Offences (Procedure) (Amendment) Act, 2022 (Act 1079). However, the posture of the Attorney General, we believe, is also based on law, as none of the accused has admitted to guilt.
On the other hand, Big Sea is not a party to the suit and may not be held liable in the event of default. It is, therefore, our hope that the lawyers of the defendants will take a cue from the reasons given by the Office of the Attorney General to regularise the procedure.
Our interest as a Ghanaian media house is that both parties resolve the issue in a manner where the state will recoup the funds. Considering the current state of the economy, we dread that any attempt at losing a pesewa would definitely not be in the interest of the nation.
The two million euros, if refunded, would help shore up the country’s foreign reserve, especially at a time when stringent measures have been executed and aimed at achieving debt sustainability.
It is our hope that both parties would eschew political interests, if any, to agree on conciliatory terms that would result in the refund of the money, which we believe is of paramount necessity to every well-meaning Ghanaian.
The state, in the case of Ato Essien of Capital Bank agreed, upon admission of guilt, for the accused to refund the money to the exchequer, instead of pursuing custodial sentence, which is highly commendable. On this basis, we suggest that the same, if possible, should be replicated in this case.