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General News of Wednesday, 11 August 2021


Sputnik V: Akufo-Addo, Ofori Atta and other defenders of the health minister

President Akufo-Addo after swearing in Agyeman-Manu as minister on March 6, 2021 President Akufo-Addo after swearing in Agyeman-Manu as minister on March 6, 2021

• Many continue to mount pressure for the resignation of Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu

• He has garnered a few defenders including President Akufo-Addo

• The minister is currently on a two-week leave to attend to personal issues

Health minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu has been under fire as calls for his resignations have heightened especially from the opposition, Civil Society Organizations, lawyers, governance experts and ordinary citizens via social media.

The minister, currently on a two-week leave to attend to personal issues, is in the eye of the storm over malfeasance in the procurement of Russia-made Sputnik V vaccines from a Dubai-based businessman.

A parliamentary committee report on the issue released last week has worsened his position as it exposes his half truths and in some cases, outright lies.

Amid the heavy backlash, he has enjoyed some defense from the appointing authority through to colleague ministers and members of parliament's majority.

GhanaWeb takes a look at four defenders of the under fire Agyeman-Manu

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

The most recent defense has come from President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo during a visit to the Bono Region where he addressed a gathering of chiefs.

Without going into the facts, the president made light of Agyeman-Manu’s headache when he said: “There are a lot of people from the Bono Region in my government; including the Minister of Health, who is currently receiving slaps [from Ghanaians].

“He is an indigene of Dormaa. He has really suffered in that Health Ministry and he is still suffering,” he said amid laughter.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta

On August 5, 2021, in an interview with Asaase Radio, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta defended Agyeman-Manu and tasked Ghanaians to be empathetic with his colleague whose actions he said were out of good faith.

“I kind of have listened to the argument and sort of on hindsight … I think there is so little empathy in appreciating what my colleague minister must have been going through.

“To be so unsympathetic to someone who felt like what can I do to ensure that there is continuity and to sit now comfortably …. I am empathizing with him and I expect that others will realize the type of pressure that he was under and his commitment to ensuring that the Ghanaian people are safe.”

Deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin

For his part, deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin, who was the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee that probed the scandal, spoke more to the issues and admits the minister erred but not to the extend that he needed to be punished.

Afenyo-Markin in an August 10, 2021, interview on Accra-based Citi FM, said all his readings point to the fact that: “there is no such law that I have read that implicates the minister,” adding that the embattled minister is at best a victim of circumstance and of political mischief.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Agyeman-Manu has become a victim of circumstance and that is the price you pay when you come into public service. It is expected. People can misconstrue you. The public has not received the full facts. People are twisting the story to embarrass him.

“The point is that when he was referring to that figure, at the point in time, he was responding to questions on the government of Ghana sources, bear in mind that for bilateral sources there is no third-party distributor. So he said that on that score, he will not pay more than that.

“In our findings, we said it would have been prudent for him to seek the Attorney General’s advice, come to Parliament, and go to PPA before signing the agreement. We don’t want the impression to be that the NPP side of the committee is defending the Minister.

“We only want the facts to be put out there fairly so that we don’t pollute the minds of people. It was a bi-partisan committee, we unanimously came up with the report. I am not changing my position on our findings. But I am ready to defend and deal with all mischief,” he added.

Majority Leader Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu

Barely three days ago, Majority Leader Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu argued that contrary to the widely held view that the parliamentary committee report had implicated the minister, the testimony needed to be understood in proper context.

The Majority Leader in an extensive interview with Citi FM spoke to the back and forth between the Minority and Majority caucuses over the report. He said: “I called the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee [Afenyo-Markin] and Vice Chairman [Akandoh], and they both disagreed on what really happened at the committee level. I called the clerk of the committee, and she said she doesn’t really remember what exactly happened, but she will call for the recording.

"She did and came to inform me in the presence of the Chairman and Vice Chairman that indeed the minister did not make a categorical statement, and that the minister said ‘to the best of his knowledge no payment had been made.'

“Before then, I had told the secretary that if indeed the minister made a categorical statement that no payment had been made, and they discovered that payment was made, then they should put that in the report that what the minister had said was inconsistent with their [committee’s] own finding. So they put that in the report.”

He continued: “But when the clerk came out with the admission that indeed the minister did not make any such categorical statement, and that the statement was qualified that ‘to the best of his knowledge, no monies were paid’, in that case will you say the minister lied? Clearly no… [So] in the presence of the Chairman and Vice, the secretary took out that portion of the report,” he explained.

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