Parliament has approved the service agreement for the use of drones to distribute essential medicines and blood to remote areas of the country, in spite of strong objections by the Minority Members of Parliament (MPs).
The approval was decided by a head count, with 102 MPs voting for it, while 58 MPs voted against it.
After the approval, the Minority MPs, led by the Ranking Member on the Finance Committee of Parliament and Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Mr Cassiel Ato Forson; the Ranking Member on the Health Committee, Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh, and the Minority Spokesperson on Communications, Alhaji Bashir Fuseini Alhassan, urged President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to withdraw the contract because the project cost was over-bloated and the country would be short-changed.
They threatened to go to court to have the contract cancelled, adding that a future government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) would review the deal, since it was not in the interest of the state.
Yesterday’s approval followed information provided by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Berekum East and Chairman of the Health Committee, Dr Kwabena Twum-Nuamah, on the regulatory approval given by the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
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He again clarified that $88,000 would be spent per a distribution centre per month when fully deployed.
Terms of the contract
Under the agreement, the Ministry of Health bears no risk for the installation, operation and maintenance of the drones.
Rather, the ministry pays only when Zipline succeeds in setting up four distribution centres and meets the performance specifications agreed to.
The contract will run for four years from start of service and $88,000 will be used per distribution centre per month when fully deployed.
The company guarantees average emergency delivery time of less than an hour and at least 150 flights daily.
The drones will carry weights of between 1.5 and two kilogrammes to remote areas.
The Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) is to fund the operational cost, while Zipline bears the infrastructure cost.
On December 3, 2018, Majority and Minority MPs locked horns over the cost and necessity of the service agreement for the use of the drones to distribute essential medicines and blood to remote areas.
The Minority MPs, led by their leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said the cost of the project was too exorbitant, while the use of drones was not necessary now because remote areas only needed health facilities and medical officers.
Besides, the Minority wondered why the project was to be given on contract to Fly Zipline Ghana Limited on a sole-source basis when a value audit had not been conducted on the project.
They, therefore, called for the withdrawal of the agreement and indicated that they would not support its approval.
But Majority MPs, led by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Dormaa West and Minister of Finance, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, insisted that the cost of the project was within range.
Besides, the Majority said the state was not going to bear any financial cost on the project and that corporate bodies had agreed to fund the cost of the project.
It said the use of the drones would ensure efficiency in the distribution of essential drugs and blood to remote areas and also prevent avoidable deaths.
Speaking to journalists after the approval, Mr Forson, who is the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Ajumako/Enyan/Essiam, said the cost of the project was over-bloated and was a rip-off of the country.
He said Zipline was only investing a maximum of $6 million but not the $12 million indicated in the agreement.
Mr Chireh, who is the NDC MP for Wa West, told journalists that the country risked paying penalties should the GNPC and corporate bodies fail to honour their financial obligations.
Also speaking to journalists, Alhaji Alhassan, who is the NDC MP for Sagnarigu, said if the NDC returned to power, it would review the drones contract to do away with all aspects that were against the country's interest.