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Minority in Parliament raises concerns with COVID-19 testing contract at airport

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman

The Minority in Parliament has questioned the legality of the government’s decision to award the contract of testing of passengers arriving at the Kotoka International Airport for COVID-19 to Frontiers Healthcare Services Limited.

To the Minority, there was no legislation giving the government power and the legal remit to charge each passenger $150, or award the contract to the company which they said was registered on July 21, 2020, just few days to the commencement of its operations at the airport.

Besides, the Minority has questioned the rationale behind the award of the contract to the company which they say has no laboratory and hence had sublet the contract of testing of passengers to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR).

"The company, as we have investigated, is owned by Healthcare Solutions Services Limited which is owned by the Peter's Family Company Limited, which was also incorporated in June 2020. The Peter's Family Company Limited itself is registered as an offshore in the Dominica and therefore we do not want to believe that this may be another case of family and friends,” it said.

We are not banana republic

Speaking at a press conference in Parliament Thursday [October 22, 2020], the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said “The rule is that if you do not have laboratory, you do not qualify for the purpose of undertaking this services. How come they were chosen for the purpose of this?”

"We are not a banana republic as this is a country governed by law. It is not just exploitative but it is unlawful and we are demanding that to what use the money collected have been put to,” he said.

‘Government is not set up for profit’

The Tamale South Member of Parliament said with the increasing threat of COVID-19 in Ghana, the Minority supported the state and the government to pass the necessary legislation and the release of justifiable finances and funding to contain and combat COVID-19.

"We are happy with the outcome but Ghana is not out of the woods yet and this is not the time to be celebrating. We need to solidify the measures we have put in place thus far which has brought us this far and having very insignificant cases of COVID-19 and insignificant deaths being reported across the country,” he said.

He, however, said the Minority was not only concerned about the poorly-crafted scheme being used to cash in on poor Ghanaian travelers who desired to travel back home but the inability of Frontier Healthcare Services Limited to deliver the very services for which the poor Ghanaian were paying $150.

"Government is not set up for profit," he said, and reminded the President to be mindful that his primary responsibility was to contain the public health pandemic and not to profit out of it even for the “purposes of a friend or a family.”

‘Rewarding a friend’

The Minority Leader pointed out that the Minority had been aware that Frontiers Healthcare Services Limited, in a letter dated August 28, 2020, solicited the support of the coordinator of the National Laboratory Network for COVID-19 testing to enable them to do their work.

He, therefore, questioned the basis for the government to award COVID-19 testing to the company when Noguchi had been conducting COVID-19 test for and on behalf for Frontiers Healthcare Services Limited.

"If you want due diligence and proper work being done, you award a contract to a company which has no laboratory and yet they will depend on another laboratory to undertake the exercise. It only can be a matter of rewarding a friend,” he added.