Ambulance contract: Ato Forson accuses judge of bias

The Minority Leader, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson has accused the judge presiding of being biased in his case over the vehicles unworthy to be used as ambulances in 2015.

His lawyers made this point when they were called to move his application for the Judge, Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe to recuse herself.

This comes after the Chief Justice, Justice Gertrude Araba Esaaba Sackey Torkornoo, declined a request to remove the judge presiding over the case in which Dr. Ato Forson and two others have been accused of allegedly causing €2.37 million financial loss to the state in an ambulance deal.

The request was contained in a petition filed by Richard Jakpa, a private businessman standing trial with Ato Forson.

The petition sought to remove the trial Judge, Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, from presiding over the case for alleged bias on her part as a result of an incident that occurred during one of the court’s sittings.

The alleged bias was because the trial judge on June 20, this year, issued a stern warning to him that it was the last time she would tolerate any disrespect from him and let him go home.

When the case was called for hearing on Thursday, July 27, 2023, lawyers led by Dr. Bassit Bamba filed two motions; one, the presiding judge should recuse herself, and the other, the court should release his travel passport to him.

He said the judge hearing the matter will amount to her being a judge in her own case.

Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson

He stated that “The course which we are referring to has to do with certain prejudicial utterances that your ladyship has made in the course of hearing this matter.

“In that regard, your ladyship has become the subject matter of this application, we pray that your ladyship should decline to hear this matter, for this court is differently constituted to hear this application.”

Justice Asare-Botwe further adjourned the case to October 12, 2023, to decide whether or not she is clothed with the power to hear the motion.

The trial which has been ongoing since 2022 has seen the state call five witnesses including Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman Manu, officers from the Finance Ministry, Health Ministry, Ambulance Service, and the Economic and Organised Crime Office to make its case.

Ato Forson and two others are on trial for allegedly causing financial loss in the purchase of some ambulances during his time as Deputy Finance Minister.

The prosecution points out that the actions of the first accused, Dr. Ato Forson directly led to financial loss to the State in the purchase of the vehicles purporting to be ambulances. By a letter dated 7th August 2014, signed by Dr. Ato Forson, the Bank of Ghana was urgently instructed to establish an irrevocable transferable Letter of Credit (LC) in the sum of EUR 3,950,000.00 in favour of Big Sea General Trading LLC. as payment for the ambulances to the Ministry of Health.

This authorization for the LCs to be established resulted in the payment of €2,370,000 for the supply of vehicles by Big Sea General Trading LLC, which did not meet the description of an ambulance (a fact clearly established from the evidence on record).

According to the prosecution, Dr. Forson’s actions, judged in light of the terms of the contract governing the transaction, showed that he violated the duty he owed as a public officer with responsibility over the use of the public purse by virtue of his status as a Deputy Minister of Finance in 2014. His actions were criminally negligent and most unwarranted.

Justifying why Dr. Forson’s actions were criminally negligent or reckless, the prosecution stated that Dr. Forson’s instruction for LCs to be established, was contrary to the terms of the “ambulance contract”, since none of the conditions set out in the contract before payment could be made, had been satisfied.

The Deputy Controller and Accountant-General, relying on Dr. Forson’s letters, wrote to the Bank of Ghana for payment to be made. After this, the vehicles were shipped contrary to the terms of the agreement. Unfortunately, when delivered, the vehicles were not fit to be described as ambulances.



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