Committee: Health Minister should still have engaged, come under Certificate of Urgency

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The Afenyo-Markin Committee that probed the procurement contracts for the supply of Sputnik-V COVID-19 vaccines, observed that even in an emergency, the Health Minister should have engaged Parliament on the contracts.

Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu had admitted before the probe that the contract between the Ministry and Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, and one other, for the supply of Sputnik V vaccines was without parliamentary approval.

The Minister had explained that the Ministry was desperate to get the vaccines and frustrated because the regular vaccine supply sources had failed during the heat of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was in a desperate and helpless situation with the management of the Covid numbers. In February, we had 78 deaths; by March, we had 56 deaths, and these were the numbers that pushed me to act,” he said at the probe, adding that he had had to rely on the Executive Instrument 61 passed by Parliament and hide behind the emergency clauses that had been invoked to do that.

““I had plans to come to seek approval from the House after I have signed the contract. But [due to] my frustrations to try to get vaccines for us at the heat of the second wave, I relied on the Executive Instrument 61 passed by Parliament and hid behind emergency clauses that have been invoked to do that.”

However, the ad-hoc parliamentary probe, chaired by Deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo- Markin, with Vice Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, Ranking Member on the Health Committee, in its report said, the Minister could still have engaged Parliament through the Health Committee or seek the approval of the House under a Certificate of Urgency.

The Committee, said in its 29-page report recommended that “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”.

It added that “going best practices, the committee noted that the agreements would have been taken under certificate of urgency in accordance with the Standing Orders and the practices of the House”.

The Minority in Parliament, since the presentation of the report has called sanctions against the Minister, possibly dismissal, for various infractions in the deal, including alleged perjury to the effect that no money had been paid to the supplier.

Committee reported that the Health Minister had made 50 per cent advance payment to Sheikh Al Maktoum, contrary to his earlier statement during his vetting that no payment was made.

However, Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has challenged the alleged perjury, with an explanation that the Health Minister did not make any such emphatic statement, hence cannot be said to have lied.

He explained that following the disagreement on what happened, he asked that it should be included in the report that some findings were found to be at variance with the testimony of the Minister, but upon further verification, he asked that that portion be removed.

However, a Member from the Minority Side has repeated the call of his Side to sanction the Minister for constitutional breaches if the President of the Republic can impeached for same or similar offences.

The source, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) wondered why the Committee failed to recommend sanctions against the Minister, in view of what he called “clear violation and breach of the 1992 Constitution by the Minister”.

The MP said the Ministry, apart from being held for constitutional provisions, can also be sanctioned for breaching the public procurement as it did not seek approval from the Board of Public Procurement Authority under Sections 40 and 41 of Act 663 before signing the Agreements.

At the time of completing its work, PPA was yet to do the ratification.

The Committee urged the Minister for Finance to take steps to recover the money due the Republic in respect of the amount of US$2,850,000.00 (Cedi equivalent of GH¢16,331,640.00) being the cost of the Sputnik-V vaccines that were proposed to be procured.

On Friday, 9th July, 2021, the House established the Ad Hoc Committee pursuant to Order 191 of the Standing Orders to investigate the Procurement Contract between the Government of the Republic of Ghana and Sheikh Dalmook Al Maktoum and S. L. Global Limited for the supply of Sputnik-V Covid-19 Vaccines.

Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu earlier on Thursday had moved a Private Member’s motion for the House to constitute a bi-partisan Committee to investigate the contracts.

Six other Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) who supported Private Member’s motion were Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, Minority Chief Whip; Mr Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, Ranking Member of Health; Dr Sebastian Ngmenenso Sandare, MP for Daffiama Bussie-Issa; Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs; Dr Mark Kurt Nawaane, MP for Nabdam and Mr Ernest Henry Norgbey, MP for Ashaiman.

Members of the Committee were Dr Nana Ayew Afriyie, Chairman of the Health Committee; Mr Bernard Ahiafor, MP for Akatsi South; Mr Kwame Anyimadu Antwi, MP for Asante-Akim Central, Mr Ernest Norgbey, MP for Ashaiman; Mrs Elizabeth Ofosu-Agyare, MP for Techiman North; Ms Sheila Bartels, MP for Ablekuma North; and Mr Farouk Aliu Mahama, MP for Yendi Constituency.

The terms of reference of the Committee was to determine whether or not the transaction for the procurement and supply of the Sputnik V vaccine between the Government of Ghana (GOG) represented by the Ministry of Health and Al Maktoum S.L Group qualifies as international Business or Economic transaction under Article 181(5) of the Constitution, and if so, whether it was subjected to prior approval of Parliament.

Also, the Committee is to determine the procurement process that was followed and the propriety of same and the prices of the vaccines as well as determine whether the services of the middleman were procured in the transaction and if so, having propriety regard to the relevant laws.

Additionally, the Committee is to ascertain the cost of the vaccines and the justification of the cost of vaccines, and whether the transaction guaranteed value for money for Ghana.

Moreover, the Committee is to determine whether or not any consideration was passed from the GOG to the middleman, suppliers, or any other person.

Furthermore, for the Committee to determine or not the Ministry of Health misled Parliament during the consideration of the transaction for the procurement of the vaccine.

The Committee is also to inquire into any other matters connected to the purchase and supply of the Sputnik V vaccine in the agreement between the GOG and the private office of Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum and S.L Global.

The Committee had three weeks to report to the House.

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