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Afenyo Markin on Minority's U-turn 'personal attack' on Health Minister

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong
Afenyo Markin on Minority's U-turn 'personal attack' on Health Minister
Afenyo Markin on Minority's U-turn 'personal attack' on Health Minister

The Majority in Parliament has disagreed with the move by the Minority, initiating a process for the removal of the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu over the botched Sputnik-V deal with Sheik Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Alexander Afenyo Markin, the Minority was acting in bad faith since the Ad-hoc committee that was formed to look into the matter had already had its report adopted by the plenary.

And that report, he argues recommended that the Minister of Finance should ensure that all monies already paid to Sheik Al Maktoum should be refunded. This he said had been done.

Minority

The Minority in Parliament on Wednesday [February 16, 2022] initiated moves for the removal of Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu as the Minister of Health.

The Minority has filed a motion for a vote of censure for the House to pass a vote of no confidence in Mr Agyeman-Manu as the Minister of Health.

Per the rules of the House, a two-thirds majority should vote in favour of the motion for the minister to be removed.

Read also: Minority initiates moves for removal of Health Minister Agyeman-Manu

Reaction

But responding to the move in a radio interview with Accra-based Citi FM, monitored by Graphic Online on Wednesday evening, the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Alexander Afenyo Markin argued that there were no breaches of the law.

To him, as far as he was concerned, Parliament formed an Ad hoc committee, they did their work, finished it, and presented the report to the plenary, it was debated and the plenary did not amend the report. “The report was accepted and so far as I am concerned, we have to deal with the recommendations in the report and the findings thereon.”

His point was that, per the report of the Ad hoc committee and the approval of the House, there was no basis for the U-turn by the Minority side's call for the vote of censure, "when they know they will not get the two-thirds majority."

“If you are now doing a U-turn, attacking the minister, what is the basis of the attack,” he questioned.

Adding, he said the Minority was acting in bad faith with its motion for a vote of censure on the Minister of Health.

“Calling for censure, what is your basis? They have to be fair, they’ve been in government before and I expect them, reasonably, to act in good faith. But this new attack on the Minister, I think it is another personal attack and nothing more.”

Read also: Sputnik V saga: Sheikh Al Maktoum refunds US$2.4m to Ghana

No breach of PPA law

Mr Afenyo Markin insisted the Ministry of Health did not breach the Public Procurement law as is being touted by the Minority.

“Working with our [Ad hoc committee] report, we made it clear. The law allows for a decision to be taken, [and then] a referral made to the PPA for ratification...”

On the issue of Article 181, “we are dealing with two contracts here, the SL Global, which is a Ghanaian company has no issue."

He said the issue is with Al-Maktoum and the minister in his submission at the committee hearing, admitted that bilateral talks with all countries including the COVAX facility were not forth coming with good results when Ghana needed the vaccines urgently to save lives and so he [minister] had to take a step and this company [Sheik Al Maktoum] said they had the capacity to supply.

He said the NDC Minority side was creating the impression that it was only when it got to the committee hearing that the minister wrote to the Attorney-General about it.

The Minister, he said had earlier written to the Attorney-General (A-G) and the A-G had responded and the minister had indicated on oath that he was then preparing a memo to add to the A-G’s advice to Parliament.

"The move by the Minority to suddenly say there must be a censure against the minister, that I [Afenyo Markin] think is an attempt to being overly partisan to attack the integrity of the minister.

And that is unfair, he is a colleague and we are to argue on facts, and we should look at the national interest. Our [committee] primary concern was how to get the refund made for the unsupplied doses [of Sputnik-V vaccines) because an LC (letters of credit) was established and it could only be cashed when the delivery had been made.

But there was a commitment on the down payment. And these supplies were used, the Statistical Service [Population Census], they used it. Some health professionals also used the vaccine for a certain critical category of people in the public service. All these facts were made known to us.

And then we said, yes, you saved lives but the key concern is possible financial loss to the state. The Ministry then showed us correspondents, one of which indicated that Al Maktoum had repudiated the contract and Al Maktoum had indicated willingness to refund the down payment.

All these, he said were done even before the committee concluded its report and committee members had evidence of it."

Ad hoc Committee

Graphic Online’s Parliamentary correspondent, Nana Konadu Agyeman reports that the Ad hoc Committee of Parliament that was set to investigate the contract agreement the between the government and the Private Office of Sheik Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum for the procurement and supply of 300,000 of Sputnik-V vaccines at the unit cost of $19 per dose has stated the Minister of Health erred in signing the agreement.

Konadu reported that the committee noted that although the contract agreement was of an international nature in line with article 181 (5), Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu signed the agreement without seeking prior parliamentary and cabinet as well as the approval of the board of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA).

It noted that an amount of $2.85 million, representing 50 percent of the contract sum of 5.7 million, had been paid to Sheik Al Maktoum.

The amount paid was cedi equivalent of GH¢16.3 million at the then prevailing exchange rate of $1 to GH¢5.73, a payment the minister told the committee that he had no knowledge of under oath, the report said.

Nana Konadu Agyeman reported that the committee, therefore, urged the Minister of Finance to take steps to recover the money due Ghana in respect of the amount of $2.85 million (cedi equivalent of GH¢16.3 million) being the cost of the Sputnik-V vaccines that were proposed to be procured.

It, however, said, S. L. Global, the second entity the minister signed an agreement for the supply of Sputnik-V at a unit cost of $18.5 per cost, was a Ghanaian incorporated company, hence the ministry’s agreement with the firm did not qualify as an international business or economic transaction where parliamentary approval would be required.

These were contained in a report the nine-member committee, chaired by the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin, submitted to the House last week, and was adopted by consensus by the House Wednesday [February 16, 2022].

Refund

It will be recalled that the Dubai businessman refunded $2.4million to the government.

The Sheikh, in a letter dated August 11, 2021, and addressed to the Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, Mr Kwabena Boadu Oku-Afari, said $2.47million has been refunded to the designated bank account provided by the ministry.

The Ministry of Health engaged the services of the Private Office of Sheikh Al Maktoum for the supply of the Sputnik-V vaccines.

Ghana had already taken delivery of 20,000 out of an expected 300,000 doses.

Procurement process

The report noted that the committee found that the Ministry of Health did not seek approval from the board of Public Procurement Authority under sections 40 and 41 of Act 663 before signing the agreements.

The ministry, the report said, however, applied for ratification under section 90(3) (c) of the Act which had still not been granted.

According to the report, the committee found that the ministry dealt with the Private Office of Sheik Al Maktoum and S. L. Global, two entities that were appointed by the Aurugulf Health Investment of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to be both agents and distributors of the Sputnik-V vaccines in Ghana.

Cost of the Vaccines

The committee found that the amount of $19 was the agreed price of the vaccine under the ministry’s agreement with Al Maktoum and $18.50 under the agreement with S. L. Global which was originally $26 per dose.

The report said the committee found that the ex-factory price of the Sputnik-V vaccine was $10.

Per the report, the minister explained that the prices achieved under the two agreements included the cost of documentation, shipping, packaging, logistics and expenses in relation to transportation of the vaccine from its place of origin to Ghana.

Procure the Vaccines

The committee also established that the Health Ministry entered into the two agreements without cabinet approval but only based on a ministerial decision based on the advice of the COVID-19 Emergency Operating Committee.

The Committee said it was of the opinion that even if the situation in the country at the time the agreement was signed was that of an emergency, due process of law should have been followed because Parliament would have treated the issue with the urgency it deserved and the appropriate action would have been taken.

“The agreement would have been taken under certificate of urgency in accordance with the Standing Orders and the practices of the House.

“The point must also be made that, even if it was an emergency, the minister should have found time to communicate effectively and engage with the Committee on Health. The extensive engagement would have saved the ministry from the negative reactions from the citizenry and some Members of Parliament,” Nana Konadu Agyeman reported from Parliament House.

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