Punish Agyemang-Manu – UG lecturer

Ghana's Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu
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Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang-Manu must be punished for the alleged procurement breaches in the Sputnik V contract in order to serve as a deterrent to others, Dr Seidu Alidu, a Political Science Lecturer at the University of Ghana, has said.

Dr Alidu said in spite of the fact that the country was going through a crisis of this nature, the right procedure as well as the rules and regulations should have been followed by the Minister of Health in procuring of the vaccines.

He said on the Key Points hosted by Dzifa Bampoh on TV3 on Saturday August 7 that We don’t live in a jungle, we live in a democracy and democracy prescribes institutions and procedures for doing everything.

“There are institutions, there are set laws, there are regulations governing how things should be done in this manner and the processes under which it should be done. Even though we are facing an unprecedented health crisis, when the president wanted to fight this, he had to go to parliament and seek permission.

“With restrictions of movement, the president could have said that we are facing crisis so we shouldn’t come out but he thought that we are in a democracy and he needs to use the right procedure to fight the crisis. I think the minister should not have lost sight of the fact that regardless of the circumstances we are still in a democracy and the appropriate rules and procedure must be applied.

“This is not first time minister, he is very experienced minister and he has even been a chairman of the PAC when issues of this kind came he presided over them.

“I don’t think we should just stop at retrieving the money. Something has to be done so that people just don’t think you can do things and be asked to retrieve the money. We need to set a very serious precedent and make the breaches of the law more costly.”

His comments come after the Parliamentary Committee that was tasked to probe the contract said in its final report that the Agyemang-Manu should have contacted and engage with the Parliamentary select Committee on Health on the Sputnik V contract even if it was an emergency situation,

The Committee in its final report said “The point must also be made that, even if it was an emergency, the Minister should have found time to communicate effectively and engage with the Committee on Health.

“The extensive engagement would have saved the Ministry from the negative reactions from the citizenry and some Members of Parliament.” 

Mr Agyemang-Manu has earlier admitted before the committee that he did not do due diligence before contracting with the private office of one Emirati Sheikh, H.H Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum for 3.4 million doses of Sputnik V at a unit cost of $19.

“Those were not normal times and I was seriously in a situation that didn’t make me think properly, the way you think that now I will actually abreast myself with the situation”, he told the committee Monday, July 19.

The deal was uncovered by a Norwegian journalist, Markus Tobiassen, who works with tabloid Vergens Gan, to have been inflated by some $9 citing the ex-factory price of the vaccine as $10.

The minister said, the whole deal was reached out of desperation and frustration on the part of his office, the reason he did not seek parliamentary approval for the international transaction as is required under Article 181 (5) of the Constitution of Ghana 1992.

“February, 78, March 56, there were the numbers and if you, any of us here were the Health Minister at the time I think you might have taken certain decisions that on hindsight or going forward you may not have done those things This was the environment that I found myself in. Out of desperation, frustration, so many things and people were dying we needed to protect our citizens.”

The Parliamentary investigative committee has therefore recommended to the Ministry of Finance to take steps to recover the money due the Republic in respect of the amount of US$2,850,000.00 (Cedi equivalent of GH¢16,331,640.00) being the cost of the Sputnik-V vaccines that were proposed to be procured.

The Committee says it found that the Ministry of Health did not seek approval from the Board of PPA under Sections 40 and 41 of Act 663 before signing the Agreements.

The Ministry however, applied for ratification under Section 90(3) (c) of the Act. Which has still not been granted.

The Committee also found that PPA has not concluded its investigations into the matter.

Dealings with Distributors

The Committee found that the Ministry dealt with the Private Office of His Highness Al Maktoum and S. L. Global. The two entities were appointed by the Aurugulf Health Investment (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates), to be both Agents and Distributors of the Sputnik-V COVID-19 Vaccines in Ghana. Clearly using middlemen for the purchase and distribution of the vaccine.

Cost of the Vaccines

The Committee found that the amount of US$19.00 was the agreed price of the vaccine under the Ministry’s Agreement with Al Maktoum and US$18.50 under the

Agreement with S. L. Global which was originally $26 per dose.

The Committee found that the ex-factory price of the Sputnik-V Vaccine was US$10.00.

The Minister explained that the prices achieved under the two Agreements included the cost of documentation, shipping, packaging, logistics and expenses in relation to transportation of the vaccine from its place of origin to Ghana.

Decision to Procure the Vaccines

The Committee found that the Ministry entered into the two Agreements without cabinet approval but only based on a Ministerial decision, having regard to the advice of the COVID-19 Emergency Operating Committee.

Payment to Messrs Al Maktoum

The Committee found that the amount of US$2,850,000.00 (representing 50% of the contract sum of US$5,700,000.00) has been paid to Messrs Al Maktoum and this translates into the Cedi equivalent of GH¢16,331,640.00 converted at the then prevailing exchange rate of US$1 to GH¢5.73 whereas the minister said he had no knowledge of payment under oath.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Based on the afore-mentioned findings, the Committee recommends as follows:

Issues Relating to Article 181(5) of the Constitution

The Committee is of the opinion that even if the situation in the country at the time the Agreement was signed, was that of an emergency, due process of law should have been followed because Parliament would have treated the issue with the urgency it deserved and the appropriate action would have been taken accordingly. The Agreement would have been taken under certificate of urgency in accordance with the

Standing Orders and the practices of the House.

The point must also be made that, even if it was an emergency, the Minister should have found time to communicate effectively and engage with the Committee on Health.

The extensive engagement would have saved the Ministry from the negative reactions from the citizenry and some Members of Parliament.

The Committee therefore recommends that, in future, any such transaction, whether local or international, be subjected to broader stakeholder consultations and should be taken through due process of law including Parliamentary approval. Other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should take a cue from the recommendation, not only in the case of Agreements but also on issues relating to policies and programmes to be implemented.

By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana

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