Lawyers for former Deputy Finance Minister, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson on Thursday, July 21, subjected Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu to 2 hours of questioning.
Lead Counsel Dr. Abdul Aziz Bamba challenged the Health Minister’s claim that Dr. Forson had authorised payments to an ambulance supplier.
Mr. Manu had told the High Court the terms of the contract required that no payment should be made until the vehicles are delivered. Inspection, he explained was also to be carried out prior to shipping of the vehicles.
The Health Minister alleges Dr Forson wrote to the Bank of Ghana requesting Letters of Credit to be established.
“There was no reference to the contract agreement that stipulated that there should be no advance payment and that the vehicles should be delivered before payment is made,“ Mr. Manu said.
Dr. Bamba however challenged the claims of the Health Minister. He first argued that a letter of credit is not payment. He also insisted that Dr. Forson made a request and did not give instructions as had been alleged.
Dr. Bamba – And you are aware that LC’s are not payments in themselves but guarantees or promises of payment upon certain conditions being met
Answer: That is so.
Dr. Bamba -So if the Ministry of Finance requests the Bank of Ghana to establish an LC that does not mean BOG should make payment or it is authorizing payment. Right?
Dr. Bamba- Yes, Finance is authorizing BOG to make payment under certain conditions.
And of course, If those conditions are not met, then payment should not be made under the LC.”
Dr. Bamba then suggested to the Minister that nowhere in the letter written by the former Deputy Finance Minister is the word “instruct” used.
“Dr. Bamba -Where does it mention “instruct”
Health Minister- I don’t see the word instruct but I can see the word request. And to the best of my knowledge that is synonymous with instruct.
Dr. Bamba-I suggest to you that in ordinary parlance, instruct is not the same as request.
Health Minister-That is not my understanding.
Dr. Bamba-And that you have chosen to use the word instruct for the purpose of linking A1 to the LC in a manner that suggests the Bank of Ghana had no choice but to issue the LC
Health Minister-My lady that is not correct
Dr. Bamba-There will be no reason why you will insist on using the word instruct when the word used in exhibit A is request.
Health Minister-I have already said my understanding of instruct is synonymous with the phrase, “urgently request”. “
It was then suggested to the Health Minister that it was not unusual for Deputy Ministers to sign letters on behalf of substantive ministers. Dr. Bamba said such a deputy minister cannot be responsible for the contents of the letter. Mr. Manu however argued that will only be the case if the substantive minister is aware of the document and authorized the Deputy to sign it.
The Health Minister explained that subordinate officials cannot sign documents on behalf of the Minister but a Deputy Minister or Chief Director can do so.
Dr. Forson’s lawyer then confronted Mr. Manu with a document he had presented to the court which was signed by a Director of Legal at the Health Ministry on behalf of the Health Minister.
Dr. Bamba -One Hamidu Adakurugu signed on behalf of the Minister of Health. He was doing so for the Minister not in his personal capacity.
Health Minister-That is evident in the exhibit.
Dr. Bamba-I am suggesting to you that lawyer Hamidu Adakurugu cannot take personal responsibility for its content
Health Minister-My lady that is so. But Under circumstances that you sign on behalf if you are under express instructions to do so or with the minister’s approval to do so. But if on the blind side of the Minister, you do so, then you can be held personally responsible.”
It was then pointed out to him that Dr. Forson signed the letter on behalf of the then Finance Minister Seth Terkper.
Dr. Bamba explained Mr. Terkper has since confirmed authorizing Dr. Forson to write the letter. The Health Minister said he was not aware. The case has been adjourned to Tuesday, July 26 for a continuation of the cross-examination.