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Opinions of Thursday, 30 October 2014

Columnist: Damptey, Daniel Danquah

Constitute the pharmacy board now, mr president.

I cannot comprehend why Government in most cases renege on honouring its part of the social contract it has signed with the people.

Today, I want to write on a very important issue which has to do with the granting of license to those who want to go into the business of operating pharmaceutical wholesale and retail shops. Much as this issue is a national one, it goes beyond that for I am indirectly affected. My nephew has applied for one since the beginning of the year, but nothing concrete has come out of it.

Yes, those who want to go into that line of business do not know their fate simply because those who have the mandate to ensure compliance have refused to discharge their obligations towards the citizenry.

My nephew is one of such people who want to go into that line of business. He applied for and got a loan from one of the financial institutions in the country. With the loan, he rented some shops to be used for his wholesale business and offices. Facilities have been put in place to ensure the smooth take off of the business.
He has paid the mandatory processing fee of GHC5,000.00 and also engaged the services of a qualified pharmacy. As part of the process for the granting of a license, an inspection of the premises has been conducted by the relevant agencies/authorities. What does he get in return for all these “investment”? Nothing, for the "process" has suffered premature termination. Why? Wait and I will tell you.

My checks at the relevant places/agencies have revealed that Government submitted a bill titled “The Health Professions Regulatory Act 857” to Parliament. The Bill was passed in June, this year. The passage of this new Bill in effect means that the Pharmacy Act 489 has been repealed. The new Bill does not make it mandatory for any Pharmaceutical Company – Wholesale or Retail to be headed by a Pharmacist.

But then, if the Pharmacy Act 489 were to go, so goes the Board of the Pharmacy Board. The Board was dissolved but the onus lies with Government to reconstitute or constitute a new Board which will grant licenses to successful applicants. The inability of Government to discharge its constitutional obligation is the main reason that has stalled the process.
What is preventing Government from appointing members to the Board? Is Government telling us that there are no competent Ghanaians to be appointed to the Board? Are those lobbying to be made members of the Board so powerful that Government cannot say “no” to such strong and powerful men in the society?

What is happening? We need to know.

Why did Government dissolve the former board knowing fully well that it would not be capable to reconstitute a new one? Is there the hand of Esau teleguiding the whole process? This also, the public need to be told.
There are many negative implications arising out of Government’s inability to reconstitute a new board. In the first place, a lot of revenue which could have accrued to the coffers of Government is lost as such individuals and companies are not yet in business due to no fault of theirs.
Again, how do individuals and companies who/which have obtained loans from financial institutions pay back such loans, since the legal instrument which will allow them to start their businesses are denied them by the very government which has sworn to protect and give them the relevant assistance?
What about creating employment opportunities for the jobless in the society? Assuming 50 individuals or companies are qualified to be granted license and each of them employs an average of three workers. Not less than 150 persons would be gainfully employed. Thus, most of the social vices that accompany unemployment would be minimized if not eradicated entirely. Don’t you think the tax net will be widened to cover these new employees?
We should also not overlook the fact that as Government delays in reconstituting the Pharmacy Board, the would be entrepreneur to the pharmaceutical business will be confronted with how to keep on paying rent on his/her business premises which is yet to take off. And the cost of accommodation these days is enormous.
The irony of the whole saga is that the regulatory body has collected the processing fees from the numerous applicants.
Why should a mere composition of a Board by Government be a stumbling block to the granting of operating licenses to genuine businessmen and women who have satisfied all requirements?
I pause for an immediate response!
Daniel Danquah Damptey