Former deputy Finance Minister Cassiel Ato Forson has hit back at the Attorney-General (A-G) Godfred Yeboah Dame on the latest comments regarding a €2.37million financial loss case.
Barely 48 hours after the A-G statement explaining that the court case is not politically motivated, Mr Ato Forson said the A-G’s office cannot dictate to him how he reacts to court summons.
“I have noted a statement issued by a Deputy Attorney-General claiming that by speaking out against the malice and deliberate political persecution inherent in the decision to prosecute me, I am exposing the Attorney-General to ‘hate’ and ‘prejudice’.
“I wish to state that the Attorney-General’s office cannot determine my reaction to the sinister plot to needlessly tarnish my reputation and rob me of my liberty simply because I remain implacably opposed to the poor economic policies of this government, and in particular the E-Levy,” Mr Ato Forson stressed.
He pointed out that it was the Attorney-General who was rather driven by hate, prejudice and demagoguery.
The Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam legislator insisted that it was rather the A-G who is abusing his prosecutorial powers to silence critical political opponents.
“For instance on Paragraph 7 of the AG’s statement issued yesterday, it was claimed that on 22nd December 2011, the cabinet endorsed an executive approval of a joint memorandum submitted to the cabinet by the then Minister for Health and the first accused Cassiel Ato Forson, then Deputy Minister for Finance, for the purchase of 200 ambulances out of a medium-term credit facility of €15,800,000 between Stanbic Bank Ghana Limited and the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Finance.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Cabinet memo for the purchase of the Ambulances was submitted in December 2011. I became a Deputy minister on the 2nd of May 2013. How could I have signed a cabinet MEMO in December 2011?,” he quizzed.
Mr Forson, the Ajumako Enyan Esiam MP, is in court with Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Health and Richard Jakpa, a businessman.
They have since been slapped with five counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the state, abetment to wilfully cause financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, and intentionally misapplying public property.
A statement from the office signed by a deputy A-G Diana Asonaba Dapaah explained that investigations into the purchase of some 200 ambulances commenced before 2017, contrary to claims that it started in the aftermath of the 2022 budget controversies.
It, therefore, described as absurd and misleading, the attempt to link prosecuting the accused persons to the 2022 budget presented by Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta.
“The investigations had been ongoing since 2017 with a number of statements taken from various persons at different points in time, including the Rt Hon Alban Bagbin, former Minister of Health (now Speaker of Parliament), Kwaku Agyeman-Mensah (Health Minister) and Madam Sherry Ayittey and Dr Alex Segbefia, all former Ministers of Health as well as the first accused.
“At that time, no issue relating to the 2022 budget and economic policy of the government had either come up or was contemplated,” the statement added.
The A-G said it was in June 2021 that the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service started criminal proceedings against some individuals for prosecution by the Attorney-General.
It assured the public that the office was committed to upholding the rule of law and protecting the public interest by discharging its prosecutorial duties without fear or favour of anyone.
“The Office of the Attorney-General will zealously prosecute crimes bordering on abuse of public funds which have been fully investigated and are considered to be worthy of prosecution.
“All persons in Ghana are equal before the law. The status of a Member of Parliament is no bar to prosecution for a crime committed,” the statement added.
Ato Forson’s earlier statement maintaining innocence
At a presser on Friday, 24 December, Dr Forson said the allegations against him is only an attempt to silence him because of his unrelenting stance against the proposed E-Levy bill.
Describing the said charges as frivolous and politically motivated, the legislator insisted that he did not authorise payment for the procurement of the said ambulances.
“It should be noted that I, Cassiel Ato Forson, did not authorise payment for the said €2,370,000. But my only job in the entire transaction was to request the issuance of letters of credit on the authority of the Minister responsible for Finance at the time.
“A letter of credit was only a guarantee that a buyer’s payment to a seller will be received on time and for the correct amount. And in the event that the buyer is unable to make a payment on the purchase, the bank will be required to recover the full or remaining amount of the purchase.
“Letters of credit are not payment. I did not authorise payment,” he insisted.
Mr Forson has, therefore, thrown a challenge to the government to provide evidence proving that he indeed authorised payment for the purchase of the said ambulances.
“Unless somebody tells me they don’t understand the meaning of letters of credit. It is just a guarantee and not a payment by itself.
“In fact, in the letter of credit that was issued, someone had to authorise that payment and certainly not me. At the right time, we’ll make sure that document is made available,” he added.