Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, yesterday began giving testimony in the trial of former Deputy Minister of Finance, Casiel Ato Forson, and two others who are before a court for causing financial loss to the state.
The minister, led in his evidence-in-chief by the Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, tendered about nine different documents relating to the contract between the Government of Ghana and Big Sea General Trading Lt. LLC for the purchase of 200 ambulances for the National Ambulance Service through the Ministry of Health.
Dr. Forson, a former Deputy Minister of Finance under the John Dramani Mahama administration, together with Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director at the Ministry of Health, as well as private businessman, Richard Jakpa, are standing trial for allegedly willfully causing financial loss of €2.37 million to the state.
Mr. Agyeman-Manu, during his evidence told the court that the contract that was relied on for the purchase of the ambulances was not the commercial agreement presented to and approved by Parliament.
Giving a background to the purchase of the ambulances, he told the court that he was appointed as Chairman of the Committee on Health after change of government and during the transition deliberations, it came to his notice that ambulances were supposedly procured by the Ministry of Health but had not been delivered.
He said his handing over notes after he was made Minister of Health indicated a lack of ambulances for the Ambulance Service, so he became interested in the ambulances that had still not been delivered to the ministry.
He said he started searching through files and documentations in the ministry to find out if anything could be done. The minister said in the process of searching, his attention was drawn to a statement made by the late President John Evans Atta Mills in one of his State of the Nation Addresses outlining his vision of resourcing the National Ambulance Service, and Mr. Jakpa had approached the Ministry of Health and proposed to supply 200 ambulances for the ministry.
Mr. Agyeman-Manu said Mr. Jakpa, in a letter dated August 25, 2010, indicated his interest to supply 200 ambulances and attached to the document was an indicative term sheet of Stanbic Bank to lend €15.8 million for the purchase of the ambulances.
“On the receipt of these two documents, the then Chief Director, Mr. Anemana wrote to the Ministry of Finance for evaluation and acceptability to enable the Ministry of Health proceed and do the necessary activity to procure the 200 ambulances,” he explained.
He said the Ministry of Finance responded positively and sent their response to Stanbic Bank, stating the readiness of the ministry to borrow according to the term sheet. The Chief Directors of Health and Finance Ministries did a joint memorandum to seek approval from Cabinet to procure a loan facility to procure the ambulances, which was approved by Cabinet.
Mr. Agyeman-Manu said the two ministries then prepared a joint memorandum to Parliament seeking approval to borrow the said €15.8 million, and Parliament after consideration approved the request and communicated same to the Ministry of Finance.
He said after receipt of the Parliamentary approval, Mr. Anemana wrote to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) to seek approval to single source the procurement of the 200 ambulances from Big Sea General Limited, a situation he found strange because that was not part of what was approved by Parliament.
“I have not sighted any document of such nature from the Ministry alluding to this particular paragraph that was being used to justify the single source in favour of Big Sea General Trading Ltd. LLC. This paragraph is saying that Big Sea arranged funding for the procurement of the ambulances but there is no correspondence at the Ministry that shows that the arrangement was done by Big Sea General Trading Ltd. LLC,” Mr. Agyeman-Manu added.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak