COVID-19 vaccine purchase: We will continue to engage middlemen to protect lives – Health Minister
The Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu says government will continue to engage middlemen in its procurement of COVID-19 vaccines as long as it is meant to protect citizens.
He said, nonetheless, government was still engaging in bilateral arrangements to procure more COVID-19 vaccines.
His statement comes on the back of a report by a Norwegian tabloid newspaper published on June 3, 2021, which alleged that the government had signed a contract for the purchase of the Sputnik V vaccine with middlemen for $19 instead of $10 per dose.
According to the report published on www.vg.no, government signed the purchase contract for 3.4 million doses of the vaccine after it received an initial 16,000 doses from the middlemen on March 3, 2021.
It added that although the contract was for 3.4 million sold doses of the vaccine, the Ministry of Finance had only paid for 300,000 doses.
Although government officially responded to the allegations on June 10, 2021, the Minister of Health at a press conference in Accra on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 reiterated government’s justification for the procurement of the Sputnik V vaccine through middlemen since all attempts to procure it through bilateral means failed.
“We had to write to the Foreign Minister of Russia; we wrote to the Health Minister of Russia, we wrote to the Trade Minister of Russia, trying to see how best they can facilitate us to do bilateral engagements so we could buy Sputnik from the source.
“All these didn’t yield any responses and no significant results; to the extent that we even invited the Deputy Ambassador of Russia for engagement and he couldn’t facilitate our move. We therefore had no other option than to engage middlemen to see how best we can get the vaccines,” he explained.
Sputnik yet to be supplied
According to Mr Agyeman-Manu, although government had signed the contract for the supply of 3.4 million doses of the vaccine, it was yet to receive the first tranche which had been paid for.
He explained that the delay in supply was a result of a delay in issuing letters of credit which would have made the signed agreement operational.
“The agreements we signed were done with the view that it would only become operational after we have placed orders and have issued letters of credit. If we hadn’t done these, then the agreements will only be sitting down and become redundant.
“We had a deliberate schedule that would span the 3.4 million committed quantities to be delivered in three months to July. The first tranche was 300,000 doses that we issued an LC for. The LC delayed and after its confirmation, after three weeks after we started the process for the LC to go, the supplier told us that they had run out of stock and that we should give them two weeks,” he explained.
He went on further to say that, “Later they told us they can supply in July. So, when we delayed a little bit, they had sold their stocks. Because they haven’t been able to supply us with the first 300,000, we have to hesitate a little bit to make sure that they are going to perform before we issue the next LC.”
He stressed however, that government was committed to ensure that “no matter what we will find the vaccines to protect its people.”
“Whatever it is, we still have to procure and so far as we are getting bilateral engagements to do, we wouldn’t have options than to continue to engage middlemen to some limited extent,” he added.