It has now been established that arson was the cause of the fire that razed down Ghana’s medical repository, the Central Medical Stores (CMS), in Tema last year.
The suspected arsonist was named as Samuel Dogbe, who used to be a labourer at the CMS.
Subsequently, the government has directed the interdiction of 12 officials of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) who are suspected to have played various roles in the fire outbreak at the Central Medical Stores (CMS) in Tema last year.
On January 13, 2015, the CMS was consumed by fire, resulting in the destruction of medical supplies and equipment.
At a press conference in Accra yesterday, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, said the arsonist was believed to have been paid to set the fire in order to destroy the evidence for an investigation that was to be conducted by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) into suspected corruption at the CMS.
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She said Dogbe was currently at large and was being sought after by the national security agencies.
“The government has directed the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) to declare Dogbe a wanted person and to take the necessary steps, including seeking the assistance of Interpol, to effect his arrest,” she said.
The interdiction of 12 officials of the GHS is subject to the provision of the human resource management policy framework and manual of the GHS.
Mrs Appiah-Opong named the interdicted officials as the head of the CMS, Mr Peter Ekow Gyimah; a member of the Interim Management Committee of the CMS, Alhaji Yusif Inua; the acting head of the CMS, Mr Iddrisu Abdul-Karim; the Principal Pharmacist/Warehouse Manager, Ms Gifty Esi Mankartha, and a warehouse Manager, Zeboat Doh.
The others are the Line Warehouse Manager/General Pharmaceuticals Unit, Mr Ibrahim Laryea Amartey; another Warehouse Manager, Mr Kwame Foli; a Warehouse Manager in charge of General Pharmaceuticals, Mr Mathias Senaya, and Abdul Karim, whose designation was not stated.
The rest are the Senior Supply Officer of Project Stores, Victoria Anning; the Pharmacist/Systems Analyst, Mr James Benjamin Annan, and a storekeeper, Mr Peter Atiaba Addah.
She said the findings of the investigations identified the officials as being part of a network responsible for the systemic theft of large quantities of medical supplies and irregularities in the procurement and allocations to health institutions.
She explained that the fire was aimed at destroying evidence of suspected theft, massive fraud and irregularities in the procurement and distribution of medical supplies involving senior management and junior staff at the CMS.
Mrs Brew-Opong said EOCO had been tasked by the government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the expiration of large quantities of drugs at the CMS.
A stock count of all the medical consumable was, therefore, scheduled for January 13, 2015, the same day the outbreak occurred, to be used for an exhaustive audit of supplies made to the CMS and allocations to health institutions in 2014.
Mrs Brew-Opong said the government had directed the CID to collaborate with the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) to prepare appropriate dockets for each of the officers, their collaborators and accomplices named or unnamed in the report for prosecution at the instance of the Attorney-General.
The minister said the government had accepted certain modified recommendations made in the report.
The recommendations include the request for a proper forensic audit to unearth the extent to which consumable and non-consumable drugs had been diverted. That is expected to cover the distribution of mosquito nets meant for the various regional medical stores and district health institutions.
Mrs Brew-Opong said the government had, therefore, directed the Minister of Health, in consultation with the Auditor-General, to constitute a special task force to conduct the audit using the framework of the Audit Service Act 2000 and Act 584.
The report recommended that the audit should be conducted into a transaction between Volta Impex and the Ministry of Health following information gathered concerning an amount of GH¢5 million paid to the company for the supply of two million prescription forms to the National Health Insurance Scheme in 2011 when the actual cost of the supply was established to be GH¢1 million.
It said it was further gathered that even though Volta Impex supplied the 100,000 copies of the prescription forms, which was kept at the CMS, the GHS and medical doctors in state-run hospitals and clinics refused to use them with the excuse that the forms were deficient.
All the forms were destroyed in the fire and it was later detected that the procurement unit of the MOH shielded the wrongdoing.
Mrs Brew-Opong said the government expected the special task force to collaborate with the CID who would prepare the respective dockets for the prosecution of all found culpable at the end of the two special audit exercises.
The report requested a review of the current location of the CMS facility with the explanation that it was in an industrial zone and that was not the best.
Mrs Brew-Opong said as a result of administrative and operational lapses identified at the CMS during the investigations, the government had directed the Minister of Health to, with the assistance of experts and consultants, undertake a thorough re-organisation and restructuring of the CMS.
“The restructuring is to include the systems of the CMS, operations and existing checks and balances, if any,” she said.
She indicated that the exercise was expected to take into consideration recommendation in the investigation report.
Other findings on fire prevention
The investigations established that the fire safety and prevention measures at the CMS had been evaluated by an expert company on April 14, 2014, which recognised that the CMS had little fire-fighting capacity.
The evaluation report, according to the findings, was made available to management but they took no action to improve fire safety and prevention measures.
The findings also noted that the Tema Metropolitan Assembly’s Public Health Department had in October 2014 served a notice of abatement under section 34 (1) of the Town Ordinance, Cap 86, warning the management of the CMS to stop accumulating and burning refuse on the premises of the CMS but that was also ignored.
“As it turned out, it was the same incinerators on the CMS premises that appeared to have been used to start the fire,” the findings stated.
Meanwhile, three officials of the CMS, the Principal Pharmacist and Warehouse Manager, Ms Mankartha; the Head of Security at the CMS, Mr Samuelson Tetteh, and the Line Manager in charge of information and Communication Technology, Mr Harry Okwampah, have been found culpable for various lapses in the fire prevention measures at the CMS.
The government has directed the Minister of Health to take appropriate disciplinary actions against them.
In his remarks, Mr Segbefia reiterated the government’s commitment to continue the fight against corruption notwithstanding the consequences.
He said all recommendations in the report and directives from the government would be carried out without compromise.
Mr Segbefia announced that all the staff of the CMS before the fire outbreak had been re-posted to other sectors of the ministry.