Health Minister Under Pressure As Probe Reveals Big Gap In His Sputnik Story
It has emerged from the investigations conducted by a nine-member ad-hoc parliamentary committee that the country paid $2.8 million to Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum in the terminated Sputnik V vaccine procurement deal.
The revelation by the committee is contrary to the information divulged to the Public Accounts Committee when the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, appeared before them to respond to questions on the deal.
Mr Agyeman-Manu, under oath, told the committee that no money had been paid to the intermediary who had supplied 20,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine to aid the country’s vaccination exercise.
However, per the 28-page report of the committee, 50% of the $5,700,000 owed to the Sheikh had been paid as of March 31, 2021.
“According to the Bank of Ghana in its letter of 31st March 2021, out of the total amount of $5,700,000.00 owed to Sheikh Al Maktoum, an amount of $2,850,000.00 representing 50% has been paid to him and that translates into a cedi equivalent of GH¢16,331,640.00 converted at the exchange rate of US$1 to GH¢5.73,” the report stated.
In its report, the committee explained that the procurement and supply of the Sputnik-V COVID-19 vaccine was an international agreement.
As such, it required prior parliamentary approval to come into operation, in accordance with Article 181(5) of the 1992 Constitution.
Nonetheless, the committee found that the Ministry of Health (MoH) did not seek approval from the board of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), under sections 40 and 41 of Act 663, before signing the agreements.
Additionally, the committee found that MoH did not comply with the requirements of Article 181(5) of the Constitution in respect of its agreement with an intermediary, in this case, Sheikh Al Maktoum.
However, the ministry applied for ratification under Section 90(3) (c) of the act, which had also not been granted.
The probe by the committee further disclosed that aside from the $19 agreed price of the vaccine under the ministry’s agreement with Al Maktoum, there was another $18.50 per dose agreement with S. L. Global.
The S. L. Global, was originally $26 per dose, as against the ex-factory price of the Sputnik-V vaccine of $10, the finding noted.
“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,” it said.
The report noted that the ministry entered into the two agreements without Cabinet approval but only based on a ministerial decision, with regard to the advice of the COVID-19 Emergency Operating Committee.
In all, the government paid $2.8 million for 20,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from the Sheikh.
Recommendations and public debate
Based on its findings, the committee asked the Minister of Finance to “take steps to recover the money due to the Republic in respect of US$2,850,000 (cedi equivalent of GH¢16,331,640), being the cost of the Sputnik-V vaccine that was proposed to be procured.”
It also recommended that in the future, any such transaction, be it local or international, should be subjected to broader stakeholder consultations and taken through due process of law, including parliamentary approval.
The controversy generated by the committee finding has prompted certain influential persons among the general public to express concern.
Over the weekend, both the Editor-in-Chief of the New Crusading Guide, Abdul-Malik Kweku Baako and private legal practitioner and sociopolitical commentator, Martin Kpebu, called for the resignation of the Minister of Health.
Minister admits wrong judgment in Sputnik-V deal
Mr Agyeman-Manu, admitted to committing “an error” in signing the contract agreement between the government and Sheikh Al Maktoum on March 9, 2021, by failing to seek both parliamentary and Cabinet approvals.
The decision to commit such an error, according to him, was because there was a desperate need to procure the vaccines for the country due to rising cases and deaths.
The desperation, he said, made him enter into such an intermediary agreement without following the laid down procurement procedures with the Sheikh, who is a member of the ruling family of the United Arab Emirates.
The minister made this admission when, for the second time on Monday, July 19, he appeared before the ad-hoc committee to answer questions on the contract.
He told the nine-member parliamentary committee that he did not seek legislative approval before he sanctioned the deal, but he had “plans to come and regularise, seek parliamentary approval after I have signed the contract.”
He also said no payments had been made to the intermediary.
On Thursday, July 15, the minister had revealed that the contract for the procurement of Sputnik V vaccines through an intermediary had been cancelled.
He said that the decision was due to the inability of the intermediary to supply the vaccines after failing to meet several deadlines.
Mr Agyeman-Manu explained that the intermediary gave the ministry a verbal notice, indicating that he was struggling to get the vaccines for the country, as the contract required.
“So we requested that they terminate the agreement, which they have actually done. So, as we sit here, there is no contract between the two of us,” he said.
Chronicling the series of events that resulted in the termination of the contract, he said, “After we had signed the contract, they gave us two weeks to supply the first 300,000 we have ordered based on our [government] ability to give them letters of credit. But, unfortunately, our letters of credit were delayed.”
He continued: “Then they came back after they had confirmed that they had run out of stock. So they were going to restock and supply ours in two weeks. After two weeks, we enquired, and they said that they had still not got to the manufacturers.
“We have since been pressurising them to get us the vaccine but to no avail, and then they gave us verbal notice that they will not be able to supply any longer. Yesterday, they sent a formal letter,” he recounted.