Covid fund audit – NPP must demand a probe
Dear reader, have you read the Auditor-General’s Report on the Covid-19 Alleviation Funds?
It has broken every Ghanaian heart. In 2020, during the country’s worst tragedy in living memory, as hundreds of our compatriots were gasping to Covid deaths, some political actors and public servants were fattening their private bank accounts with money donated, borrowed or taken from our Consolidated Fund. It was equivalent to picking the pockets of accident victims in the throes of death.
For fear that nothing will ever come out of these revelations, I want to share some best practices to urge civil society groups, including the Christian Council, Ghana Pentecostal Council, the Chief Imam, Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Occupy Ghana, Imani Africa, TUC, GLOCCSAC, the three teacher unions and Nurses/Midwives to issue press statements, rise up and refuse to sit down until Government acts or Parliament sets up a bi-partisan probe into the matter.
Before I share the best practices, however, I wish to reproduce the information given by the Minister for Transport when he appeared before Parliament on June 10, 2021 to give an account of the contract signed with Frontiers Healthcare Services, the company that undertook Covid testing at Kotoka Airport.
He said per the concession agreement, Ghana Airports Company was supposed to receive US$10 per test conducted, and Frontiers Healthcare was to keep US$140 as their service charge. Each passenger tested paid $150.
He told Parliament: “Between September and December 2020, the total amount realised from the COVID-19 testing at the KIA was US$17,590,500. So as per the concession agreement, Frontiers Healthcare Services retained US$16,202,200 for its services. The Ghana Airports Company Limited, on the other hand, received US$1,167,300 from testing a total number of 117,187 passengers.”
If the Minister’s facts were correct, how come that on September 26, 2022, GACL’s CEO told JoyNews that her company was unaware of the amount of money made by Frontiers Healthcare Service? (The interview was procured on the back of a request by Multimedia Broadcasting on the strength of the Right to Information Law).
When JoyNews sought to know the modalities that led to the selection of Frontiers for the contract, THE GACL BOSS SAID HER COMPANY “IS NOT IN POSSESSION OF THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE PROCESSES THAT LED TO THE SELECTION AND AWARD TO FRONTIERS HEALTH SERVICES TO PROVIDE THE COVID-19 TESTING AT THE AIRPORT.”
Question: who selected Frontiers? Who negotiated and agreed on US US$10 for Ghana and US$140 for Frontiers? Ghanaians must know.
Now, dear reader, below are what I consider best practices in other parts of Africa.
On January, 30, 2021, Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera fired his Labour Minister and arrested 19 officials for fraudulent use of funds meant to fight the coronavirus.
What was the Minister’s offence? An Auditor General’s Report discovered that he used 613,000 kwacha (about US$800) worth of COVID-19 funds for allowances during a trip to South Africa with the President. ($1 = 779.4900 kwacha).
The President, in a televised address, said, “I cannot have in my Cabinet any individuals who either spend money budgeted for one thing on something else or do not ask tough questions to ensure that the money they are spending on something was budgeted for that purpose.”
To the whole country, he declared, “There are no sacred cows.”
To the country’s civil servants, the President warned, “If the finger of evidence points to you as one of the thieves who stole COVID money for saving lives while hundreds of our people were dying of COVID, you are going to prison.”
Best Practice Number Two:
On June 8, 2021, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa put his Health Minister on special leave, after allegations that his department irregularly awarded COVID-19-related contracts to a communications company controlled by his former associates. For other corruption allegations linked to coronavirus-related tenders, some 63 government officials were handed over for prosecution, while 87 companies were blacklisted.
Best Practice Number 3:
On July 7, 2020, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said he had sacked his Health Minister, charged with corruption for illegally awarding a $20 million contract for coronavirus testing.
Back to Ghana, if the NPP, as a party, has any hopes of breaking the eight, it cannot fail to condemn this dastardly act. Beyond condemnation, NPP must insist on getting to the bottom of this crime against humanity; after all, the rot is traceable not only to state and party functionaries but also party-neutral public servants.
I ask each of NPP’s flagbearer-hopefuls to call a press conference to condemn this unconscionable act of thieving from a nation that was on life support.
Can we still say that Ghana’s economy is in trouble because of Covid 19?