Former Finance Minister in the Mahama administration, Seth Terkper, has said he personally authorised his then-deputy, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, to ask Bank of Ghana to set up letters of credit for Big Sea General Trading Limited of Dubai for the supply of 30 ambulances.
Mr. Terkper, the star witness for the defense team in the €2.37m ambulance case brought against the Minority Leader and two others, told an Accra High Court (Economic and Financial Division) that the request for the establishment of the letters of credit was made at a special management meeting he presided over at the Finance Ministry.
According to him, this followed the receipt of a legal opinion from the Attorney General to ensure the execution of a contract between the Government and Big Sea Limited.
The court, presided over by Justice Afua Serwaa Asare Botchwey, heard that the letters of credit were intended to forestall the payment of judgment debt if Big Sea sued the government due to lengthy delays and contract breaches.
Mr. Terkper denied the Attorney General and Minister of Justice’s assertions that Dr. Forson set up the letters of credit without due cause or authorisation.
Dr. Forson has been charged on two counts of willfully causing financial loss to the state by establishing letters of credit in favour of Big Sea for the provision of ambulances “without due cause and authorisation.”
Seth Terkper stated that in 2014, he received an opinion from the then-Attorney General stating that failing to execute the contract with Big Sea would result in judgment debt if the company went to court over undue delays in contract execution.
He stated that the AG’s opinion to him stated unequivocally that “all governmental approvals had been obtained” for the contract and that the opinion was binding on all government entities involved in the transaction.
According to Mr. Terkper, the letters of credit in question were set up on an “approval basis,” which meant that the Ministry of Health had to indicate its approval of documentation from Big Sea proving the shipment of the ambulances before authorising the BoG to make payment under the letters of credit, if they were satisfied that Big Sea had met all conditions.
He explained that the establishment of letters of credit, which fell under the purview of the Finance Ministry, was distinct from payment, which had to be approved by the Ministry of Health.
He wondered how the Ministry of Finance could be blamed for any defects in the ambulances when the Health Ministry was responsible for determining their state and condition.
Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, the Minority Leader, Dr. Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, and businessman Richard Jakpa are on trial in connection with the importation of the 30 ambulances.