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General News of Saturday, 7 August 2021


Health minister lied, paid 50% of contract sum to Al Maktoum before meeting vaccine probing committee

Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman Manu Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman Manu

• The Health Minister paid $2,850,000 for the procurement of Sputnik V vaccines before appearing before Parliament

Kwaku Agyeman-Manu denied the government had made any payments when he appeared before the ad hoc committee

• The minister signed a deal with Sheikh Al Maktoum to purchase 3.4 million doses of the vaccine

Kwaku Agyeman-Manu paid $2,850,000 out of the $5,700,000 contract sum for the procurement of Sputnik vaccines to Messrs Al Maktoum before he appeared before the parliamentary committee set up to look into the matter, the committee has revealed.

Appearing before the Committee, the health minister denied knowledge of making any payments of such nature although it turned out the government had already paid 50% of the total sum, reports

The minister had said that due to the dire situation in the country due to the Coronavirus, he signed a deal with Sheikh Al Maktoum to purchase 3.4 million doses of the vaccine, at the peak of the pandemic, stating that, “to the best of my knowledge, we haven’t done any payment.”

Besides this, the Sheikh had, on Wednesday, March 3, this year, supplied the country with an initial 15,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines.

Justifying his failure to inform parliament before signing the deal, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu said, “I was in a desperate and helpless situation with the management of the COVID numbers. In February [this year], we had 78 deaths; by March, we had 56 deaths, and these were the numbers that pushed me to act.

“…if you were the health minister, I think you might have taken certain decisions that in hindsight you may not have done those things. The country was not in normal times.”

This argument was however shot down by the committee, describing his excuse as a weak one, adding that parliament could have attached the same urgency to the procurement issue if the House had been informed.

“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 said.

Following this, the Committee has recommended 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.”

Also, it stated that “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.”

In the meantime, the Committee has urged the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, to take steps to recover the proposed cost of the Sputnik V vaccines ($2,850,000).

Parliament is expected to receive the Committee’s report soon, the report added.

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