The High Court in Accra has given Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu, a former Chief Director of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing 48-hours to appear before it for his plea to be taken in a criminal case pending since 2021.
Justice Ernest Owusu-Dapaa, who gave the order on Monday (June 5) said the law would take its course if the accused person fails to show up in Court on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.
Alhaji Ziblim Yakubu, was the Chief Director of the ministry from 2009 to 2017.
Despite being slapped with charges in August 2021 with a former Minister of the Ministry, Alhaji Collins Dauda, his successor, Dr Kwaku Agyeman-Mensah and two others over the Saglemi Affordable Housing Project, the trial has been at a standstill due to the health condition of the former Chief Director.
The others are the Executive Chairman of Construtora OAS, the Brazilian company which constructed the affordable housing project at Saglemi, Andrew Clocanas, and a director of RMS, the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) consultancy subcontractor, Nouvi Tetteh Angelo, over the Saglemi Affordable Housing Project.
The accused persons had pleaded not guilty to counts of willfully causing financial loss to the state, misapplying public property, issuing false certificates and dishonestly causing loss to public property when they made their first appearance at the Court presided over by Justice Elfreda Amy Dankyi.
The original charge sheet, bearing 52 counts against the accused persons was substituted by the state on January 24, 2023 and the case was subsequently re-assigned to Justice Owusu-Dapaa on May 31, 2023.
On the new charge sheet, the five accused persons, who are currently on bail, are now facing 72 counts of willfully causing financial loss to the state, misapplying public property, issuing false certificates and dishonestly causing loss to public property.
While the four accused persons have pleaded not guilty to the new charges, Alhaji Yakubu on the other hand is yet to plead whether or not he is guilty.
Counsel for Alhaji Yakubu, Godwin Tameklo, who submitted a letter detailing the medical condition of his client, prayed the Court to either give Alhaji Yakubu some time to recover or make video conference facilities available at the Attorney-General’s Office in Tamale or Yendi to enable him plead to the charges.
However, the prosecution, led by a Principal State Attorney, Hilda Craig, said details of the medical report indicated that the accused could walk when supported.
She added that the video conference facilities were currently not available at the A-G’s offices in Tamale and Yendi, hence it was impossible for the accused person to take his plea via the video conference.
Giving his decision on the matter, the presiding judge said, “Our criminal Justice system cannot provide what it does not have”.
He, therefore ordered the accused to appear on Wednesday, June 9, 2023 at 12 noon.
Per the old facts presented by the Attorney-General (A-G), Godfred Yeboah Dame, in August 2012, the then President, John Dramani Mahama, granted Executive approval to the Ministry of Housing for the construction of 5,000 affordable housing units, to be known as the Saglemi Affordable Housing Project.
The housing units, to be executed by Construtora OAS Ltd, were to be sold to workers through mortgage arrangements provided by the then Ghana Home Loans Company.
Mr Dame said the project was funded by Credit Suisse, following parliamentary approval.
Mr Dame said on February 27, 2014, Dauda, without parliamentary approval, reviewed the EPC agreement and signed both the original and the revised (restated) agreement with Construtora OAS, represented by Clocanas.
The revision allegedly changed the scope of works and the application of the $200 million approved by Parliament, the A-G said.
Credit Suisse, he said, disbursed the $198 million ($200 million less fees and transaction expenses) into the Escrow Account and the 40 per cent advance payment to Construtora OAS was effected on February 27, 2013.
He said the contractor failed to apply the amount towards the intended purpose.
“On December 21, 2016,” he said, “Yakubu again reviewed the original and revised (restated) agreement and signed them (second and his revised or restated), without recourse to Parliament.”
That led to a further reduction in the scope of works to 1,412 housing units at a revised price of $181 million and extended the completion period to July 31, 2017, the A-G alleged.
The prosecution further alleged that series of payments were made to the contractor and sub-contractors for no work done.