Ghanaian News

Ato Forson ambulance trial: “Help me to just finish this case quickly” — judge pleads with parties

The judge hearing the case in which the Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson and a businessman have been accused of causing financial loss of €2.37 million to the state in an ambulance deal has pleaded with parties in the matter to help her finish the case quickly.

Her plea was in reaction to a letter addressed to the court requesting the Minority Leader’s absence from court to attend to parliamentary duties.

Reacting to the letter in open court, Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, said she respects the Minority Leader and his office.

However, she said supposing, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson was not the Minority Leader in Parliament but the Senior House Master of a school, “would he have said that today is reopening assembly and that he can’t come to court, no,” she said.

She said the Minority Leader was not being called to assist the court as a witness but an accused person standing trial.

“So please help me to just finish this case quickly. That way everybody will go and attend to what they have to attend to,” she said making reference to how the court handled the case involving Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, who was standing trial over alleged procurement breaches in an ambulance purchase but was subsequently discharged.

The judge said the original plan was to conclude by end of May 2024, but Mr Jakpa, the third accused person sacked his lawyer, a situation which changed the court’s plan.

“Let’s try and put the plan back on schedule, let’s try not to interrupt the flow of things, it will not happen,” she said,

Background

Dr Forson and Jakpa have been accused of causing financial loss of €2.37 million to the state in a deal to purchase 200 ambulances for Ghana between 2014 and 2016.

They have pleaded not guilty to counts of willfully causing financial loss to the state, abetment to wilfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act and intentionally misapplying public property.

Per the A-G’s facts accompanying the charge sheet, in 2009, while delivering the State of the Nation Address, the then President, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, indicated that new ambulances would be purchased to expand the operations of the National Ambulance Service.

Jakpa, who is a local representative of Big Sea General Trading Limited, a company based in Dubai, subsequently approached the Ministry of Health with a proposal that he had arranged for finance from Stanbic Bank for the supply of 200 ambulances to the government.

Parliament approved the financing agreement between the government and Stanbic Bank.

According to the facts, on November 19, 2012, Dr Anemana wrote to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) seeking approval to engage Big Sea through single sourcing for the supply of the 200 ambulances.

They added that on August 7, 2014, Dr Forson wrote to the Bank of Ghana for letters of credit covering €3.95 million for the supply of 50 ambulances in favour of Big Sea.

The letters of credit were accordingly released to Big Sea.

The facts said 30 ambulances were purchased at a sum of €2.37 million but all were found not to have met ambulance specifications and therefore “not fit for purpose”.

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