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Auditor-General directs recovery of Covid-19 vaccine money

BY: Mary Anane-Amponsah
• Johnson Asiedu Akuamoah — Auditor-General

The Auditor-General has directed the Ministry of Health to re-negotiate with the UNICEF/AVAT over the supply of Covid-19 vaccines to enable the country recover the sum of $81,87 million.

This is part of recommendations made in a special audit of the government COVID-19 transactions for the period of March 2020 to June 2022.

The report found that the Ministry of Health, on behalf of Government of Ghana, paid $120.19 million to UNICEF/AVAT for the supply of vaccines.

However, 5,109,600 doses of vaccines valued at $38.32 million were supplied to the National Cold Room, leaving a difference of $81.87 million with UNICEF/AVAT.

“We recommended that the Chief Director of the Ministry of Health should renegotiate with UNICEF/AVAT to recover the outstanding amount.

The Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, the report indicated, explained that the amount was paid in anticipation of receiving all the vaccines within a short space of time for vaccination in the country, but unexpected vaccine donations into the country, coupled with limited vaccine storage capacity and the slow uptake by Ghanaians to be vaccinated, made it impossible to receive the Janssen vaccines that had been paid for.

The report said if the contract was not re-negotiated, it could result in financial loss.

The special audit, which has been transmitted to Parliament, determined that the country mobilised GH¢21.84 billion to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Ghana.

It indicates that the funds were sourced from the Contingency Fund, the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Union (EU) and the sale of BoG-COVID-19 Bonds for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 fiscal years to finance the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme and the implementation of the Ghana COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, as well as budgetary support.

It said GH¢19.11 billion was mobilised in 2020, GH¢1.97 billion mobilised in 2021 and GH¢753.32 million mobilised up to June last year to finance the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme and the implementation of the Ghana COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan.

Covid-19 expenditure

Out of over GH¢21.84 billion mobilised, more than GH¢11.75 billion was spent on COVID-19 activities and the rest on budget support.

“On COVID-19 activities, we noted that GH¢8,658,496,124.96 was spent in 2020, GH¢3,084,311,725.45 in 2021 and GH¢7,875,208.70 in 2022 to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

IMF’s $I billion support

According to the report, the $1 billion the government received from the IMF, equivalent to GH¢5.56 billion on April 22, 2020, to support the 2020 budget, was utilised on liability management, District Assemblies Common Fund fourth quarter allocation, NABCO second quarter allocation, LEAP programme first quarter allocation, Free SHS Programme allocation for second semester of 2019/2020 academic year, free water and electricity, and capitalisation of the Development Bank of Ghana.

The audit also established that $328.568 million, equivalent to GH¢1.98 billion, was disbursed to the Ministry of Health which was utilised on medical equipment, cleaning materials, medicines, consultancy, storage facility for the vaccines and deployment, life insurance, construction, leasing and renting of treatment and isolation centres, among others.

“We observed that the Bank of Ghana, in May and September 2020, transferred a total amount of GH¢10 billion to the Controller and Accountant General as proceeds from the Bank of Ghana COVID-19 Bonds issued,” it said, addig that the amount was expended on liability management, statutory payments to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND) and other Government of Ghana expenditures as budget support.

Out of GH¢21.84 billion mobilised, GH¢11.75 billion was spent on COVID-19 activities and the rest on budget support.

The report found that on May 6, 2020, the Ministry of Finance paid Smart Infraco Limited GH¢23,388,750 for the provision of smart workspace platforms for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to facilitate virtual workspace, but did not deduct withholding tax of GH¢1,754,156.25 on the payment made to Smart Infraco Limited.

The report recommended that the Ministry of Finance should recover the amount of GH¢1,754,156.25 from the company and pay same to the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority.

It said the ministry, without the approval of the Central Tender Review Committee, increased the cost of five contracts with total contract sum of GH¢24.26 million by GH¢4.02 million through variation orders, and recommended that the Chief Director should seek retroactive approval to avoid disallowance of such variation amount.

Undelivered ambulances

The Ministry of Health, it further indicated, entered a contract signed on December 15, 2021, for the supply of 26 Toyota Hiace Deluxe ambulances valued at just over $4 million, out of which $607,419 was paid for as of September 2, 2022, to be delivered by January 15, 2022.

The ambulances, however, remained undelivered as of November 28, 2022, and the report recommended that the Chief Director should ensure that the ambulances were delivered “no further than the extended date of March 2023”.

GIFMIS platform

The Public Financial Management Regulations, 2019 (L.I. 2378) required a commitment and payment of a covered entity shall be made in the Ghana Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) within a commitment ceiling issued according to budget availability.

However, the report observed that in 2020, 102 payment vouchers were used in disbursing over GH¢231 million to service providers for the provision of hotel accommodations, evacuation of Ghanaians, supply of fuel and transfer of funds to MDAs outside the GIFMIS platform.

“Similarly, in 2021, 92 payment vouchers were used to pay GH¢311,907,753.13 for personal protective equipment, hotel accommodation and fumigation by resorting to the use of manual cash books on excel spread sheets and manual cheques other than GIFMIS,” it said.

The report recommended that the Ministry of Finance COVID-19 response account should be listed in the GIFMIS, and payments to service providers and transfers to MDAs in respect of COVID-19 should also be processed and paid through the GIFMIS.