Sputnik V deal: Minority wants Health Minister sacked

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The Minority in Parliament wants President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to immediately dismiss the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu over the controversial Sputnik V vaccine.

The Caucus insisted that the minister is not fit to be in office, hence the call.

This call was made in Parliament on Friday, August 6, 2021, after the ad-hoc committee set up to probe the Sputnik V deal presented its report.

The Chief Whip of the Minority, Mubarak Mohammed Muntaka said if the president does not heed the call, his side will pass a vote of censure on the minister because they believe Agyeman-Manu violated the 1992 constitution and his oath of office by trying to procure vaccines through middlemen without recourse to Parliament or cabinet.

“It is beyond any reasonable doubt the minister betrayed his oath of office and for that matter, and he also failed to uphold the constitution and the laws of our country.”

“I must say that the Minister should be sanctioned. He must be removed by the president. He does not fit to occupy the office of a minister of state and must therefore be removed from office henceforth, failing which this House must pass a vote of censure on the minister.”

The report

The report, tasked the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to take steps to recover the $2,850,000 expended towards the botched procurement of several doses of the Sputnik-V vaccine.

Although the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman Manu, indicated that no money was paid to the company despite an initial 20,000 doses supplied to Ghana, the report by the committee found that 50 percent of the total contract sum was actually paid.

“According to the Bank of Ghana, in its letter of 31st March 2021, out of the total amount of US$5,700,000.00 owed to Sheikh Al Maktoum, an amount of US$2,850,000.00 representing 50% has been paid to him and that translates into a Cedi equivalent of GH¢16,331,640.00 converted at the exchange rate of US$1 to GH¢5.73,” excerpts of the report stated.

The Committee also found that the Ministry of Health did not comply with the requirements of Article 181(5) of the Constitution in respect of its agreement with an intermediary, Messrs Al Maktoum.

Meanwhile, the Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Andrew Amoako Asiamah has deferred action on the report.

The African Center for Health Policy Research and Analysis has also made a similar call for the minister to be punished.

According to Dr. Thomas Anaba, the minister must be held solely responsible for the botched deal.

“The work wasn’t conclusive enough…  I think the minister took the decision to sign the agreement knowing very well that he needed to do serious consultation. Somebody must be held responsible. If the ministry took the responsibility to do things very well that we should have consulted other institutions, then he should be responsible,” he said.

Background

As Ghana struggled to reach its target of vaccinating 20 million citizens, it emerged that the government was using the services of middlemen to procure 3.4 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccines.

But this was at a higher cost of $19 other than the original factory price of $10.

This prompted calls for the abrogation of the procurement contract.

The issue first came to light when a Norwegian news outlet, Verdens Gang, reported that Ghana had requested to purchase the doses of the Sputnik V vaccine through two businessmen who are selling it to Ghana at $19 per dose instead of the $10 per dose on the international market

The initial price quoted for the vaccine was US$25, but it was negotiated downwards to US$19, according to the Ghana Health Service.

The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, who is a board member of the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, admitted that he did not seek cabinet and parliamentary approval before engaging the private individual for the procurement of Sputnik V vaccines when he appeared before the bi-partisan committee.

Meanwhile, the company that agreed to supply Ghana with the overpriced Sputnik V vaccines has terminated the contract it had with the country, according to the Minister.

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