Prosecution of Ato Forson not a reaction to his position on e-levy – AG

prosecution of ato forson not a reaction to his position on e levy ag
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Ato Forson

The Attorney-General has denied claims that the prosecution of former Deputy Minister for Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, for causing financial loss to the state, is due to his opposition to the Electronic Transaction Levy (e-levy).

A press release issued on Wednesday and signed by the Deputy Attorney-General, Diana Asonaba Dapaah, stated that investigations into financial crimes in relation to the failed purchase of ambulances for the state began in 2017.

“Same (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 for Health (now Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana), Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Mensah, Madam Sherry Ayittey and Dr. Alex Segbefia, all former Ministers for Health as well as the first accused,” part of the statement read.

The statement indicated that the AG considers the allegations by Dr Forson that his prosecution for a crime bordering on a misapplication of public funds “and willfully causing financial loss to the state is related to concerns the MPs had started raising about the 2022 Budget and Economic Policy of the Government, as rather absurd and misleading.”

On December 23, 2021, the Attorney-General’s office filed criminal charges against former Deputy Finance Minister, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson and two others for causing financial loss to the state in relation to the procurement of 200 ambulances by the Prof. John Evans Atta Mills and John Mahama led government. 

The suit also named Sylvester Anemana, Chief Director at the Ministry of Health at the time of the contract, and a businessman, Richard Jakpa, as persons of interest.

Documents filed by the AG’s office traced the events culminating into the alleged crimes to an announcement made in the 2009 State of the Nation Address regarding plans to procure ambulances for the country.

The AG said following this address, the Ministry of Health (MOH) initiated action to acquire more ambulances. The 3rd accused person, Richard Jakpa is said to have used his company, Jakpa at Business, to present a proposal and Term Loan to the Ministry of Health which he claimed to have arranged from Stanbic Bank to finance the supply of the 200 ambulances to the government.

Cabinet, according to the AG, gave an Executive Approval for the project. However, it emerged later that the ambulances had some defects which render them not fit for purpose.

But Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, reacting to the charges, described them as trumped up and frivolous.

According to him, the suit relating to his involvement in the procurement of 200 ambulances is only an attempt to silence him because of his unrelenting stance against the proposed E-Levy bill.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, December 24, 2021, to set the record straight, Dr Forson insisted that he did not authorize payment for the procurement of the said ambulances.

“It should be noted that I, Cassiel Ato Forson did not authorize 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,” he said.

He explained that a Letter of Credit is 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.”

But the Attorney-General’s office reiterated that the pending suit has nothing to do with Dr Forson’s postion on the E-Levy Bill.

“Investigations into the ambulance purchase contract are being finalised by the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service for the commencement of criminal proceedings against persons deemed fit for prosecution.

“Further statements were taken from various persons. At that stage, no issue relating to the 2022 Budget and Economic Policy of the Government had come up,” the statement added.

The Attorney-General assured the public that as the protector of the public interest, and in the spirit of the immutable principles of accountability, justice and probity enshrined by the Constitution of Ghana, the Office 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,” according to the statement.

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