For a man who promised “to protect the Public Purse”, no one imagined President Akufo-Addo, would simply grant Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, a two-week leave of absence for him to attend to “personal issues”, instead of sacking him over the Sputnik-V COVID-19 Vaccine procurement irregularities, he has admitted to.
But as media report reveal that his leave was granted by Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei-Opare and begun last week, the name of Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, is making the rounds as being the reason the Health Minister, is still being kept in office by President Akufo-Addo, despite the call by angry Ghanaian voters to fire him over the scandal.
The Health Minister’s leave, comes after the Dubai-based middleman, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, at the centre of the botched controversial deal, has agreed to refund an amount of US$2,470,000 of the US$2.8 million paid him for the supply of only 20,000 doses of the vaccines out of an expected 300,000, before the contract was terminated by him.
Mr Agyeman-Manu, in a letter made a request for a refund of the money, although he had told the Parliamentary probe that he had no knowledge of any payment to Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, suggesting the Finance Ministry prepaid for the vaccine without his knowledge.
Interestingly, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, has asked the Health Ministry to provide account details necessary to undertake the refund, raising questions as to why the Finance Ministry will pay for the vaccine, but the Health Ministry, will be the entity chasing the return of the money into state coffers.
However, that question has been answered by a 3-page letter dated 26th July 2021 from the Finance Ministry to the Parliament’s Ad hoc Committee which probed the Sputnik-V contract which was broken into two parts and signed with two companies; SL Global of Ghana and Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum’s company based in Dubai.
Sheikh Al Maktoum’s letter read: “We acknowledge receipt of your letter, Ref No. MOIVOM/LL1/7/2I, dated 2nd of August 2021, with a formal request to refund the remaining amount of the non-supplied doses from the 50% advance transferred to our accounts.”
“We, hereby, request to kindly acknowledge and confirm the above-mentioned amounts to be refunded, further to which we shall initiate the refund process to your bank account. Please share with us the bank details where the refund needs to be processed,” the letter read in part.
Meanwhile, Reuters’ report published by the news agency on February 20, 2021 entitled “Ghana approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use – RDIF” has revealed that the Health Ministry had no business using Sheikh Al Maktoum’s services as a middleman to procure the vaccines at a price of US$19 instead of US$10 per a dose from the Russian manufacturers.
The story written by Dmitry Antonov and edited by Mark Heinrich in-charge of Middle East and Africa, indicated that the Ghanaian authorities, especially those at the Health Ministry, knew about those behind the Sputnik-V vaccine and could have reached out to them for the procurement, instead of going through a middleman, Sheikh Al Maktoum.
The two-paragraph story read “MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund said on Saturday that Ghana had granted emergency authorisation for the use of the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, becoming the 31st country to do so, and the fifth African state”.
“The Russian vaccine was approved by the West African country’s health ministry, the Russian Direct Investment Fund said in a statement”.
Interestingly, some members of the Parliamentary Committee from the minority side who investigated the transaction, found out that the Food and Drugs Authority was completely not involved in transactions leading to the contract for the purchase of Sputnik V vaccines.
It has also been established that within days after Reuters’ publication, the Health Ministry entered a Vaccine Supply Agreement between the Private Office of Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum and the Ministry of Health dated March 9, 2021; while a second Partnership Agreement between S. L. Global Limited and the Ministry of Health dated March 16, 2021, was signed, and later revised by an amendment Partnership Agreement dated April 14, 2021.
SL Global Company is a Ghanaian private entity, organised and registered under the laws of Ghana with License Number CS102212012 and having its registered offices at House Number 3RS25, Devtraco Estates, Tema, P.O. Box KA 18193, Accra, Ghana. The Company was established in 2016 and it is a partnership between a leading global healthcare investment group and some Ghanaian entrepreneurs. It is vested with the provision of funding for and delivery of healthcare projects and infrastructure in Ghana.
SL Global, had secured rights for the distribution of the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine, the Sputnik V. The Company is also responsible for the Sputnik Vaccine rollout in Ghana and has concluded all necessary agreements with local and international stakeholders in order to spearhead such efforts.
SL Global, has partnered international financiers to begin a rollout of diagnostic, primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare across Ghana. Coupled with innovative social and healthcare insurance programmes, the Company had the intent to raise the quality of healthcare available to all Ghanaians.
The Finance Ministry’s document signed by Charles Adu Boahen, a Minister of State, revealed that two contracts were separately signed by the Health Ministry for the Sputnik-V vaccine. One with Sheikh Maktoum’s company in Dubai and the other with SL Global, a Ghanaian company.
It established that, the Health Minister perjured when he told Parliament that he was unaware of the payments made to the Dubai-based company.
While the Dubai-based company, was to supply 300, 000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the cost Five million seven hundred thousand United States Dollars (US$5.700, 000), the SL Global, the Ghanaian company was to supply 5 million doses of the vaccine at a cost of Ninety-two million five hundred thousand United States Dollars (US$92,500,000.00).
Meaning while the Dubai suppliers were charging US$19 per a dose, SL Global, the Ghanaian company was collecting US$18.5 per a dose for the 5 million doses.
The Finance Ministry document, further revealed that among the two companies, it was only the Dubai company that got paid 50 percent of the US$5.700, 000. SL Global was not paid a dime.
Interestingly, both companies could not supply the Sputnik-V vaccine, raising questions as to whether or not, the two companies and their directors were related in any way.
Parliament Committee chaired by Alexander Afenyo-Markin wanted to know about the “Vaccine supply Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Ghana and His Highness Sheikh Dalmook Al Maktoum for the supply of Sputnik V Covid-19 Vaccines dated 9th March, 2021; and Partnership Agreement between SL Global and the Government of Ghana (represented by the Ministry of Health) for the supply of Sputnik-V, COVID 19 Vaccines”.
On the first part of the question, Mr Adu Boahene responded, saying “the Ministry received a request from the Ministry of Health in respect of the purchase of Sputnik V, Covid 19 vaccine from the Office of H.H Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoun for the supply of 300,000 thousand doses at the total cost of US$5,700, 000 (Five million seven hundred thousand United States Dollars). The request was on headed letter signed by the Chief Director and dated 10th March 2021 and received at MoF on 11th March 2021”.
According to him, “under clause 4.2 of the contract agreement 50% of the payment was made through the establishment of sight letter of credit and the remaining 50% through confirmed letter of credit”.
In this regard, “a total amount of GH¢32,663,280.00 (Thirty-two million six hundred and sixty-three thousand two hundred and eighty Ghana cedis only) was processed and released to facilitate the establishment of letters of credit. This was followed up with another letter authourizing 50 percent advance payment and the establishment of LC for the remaining 50 percent”.
Mr Adu-Boahen, further revealed that the Finance Ministry’s check has revealed that payment was made to the Health Ministry by the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD).
“Our checks from CAGD indicated that GH¢32,663,280.00 was lodged into the Sub CF of the Ministry of Health out of which 50 percent of the contract sum was paid and LC was established for the remaining 50 percent as per the contract agreement”, said Mr. Adu Boahen.
On the second part of the question from Parliament bordering on S.L Global, the Minister of State disclosed that “with respect to the above transactions we received a request for the establishment of Letters of Credit for the supply of 5,000,000 Sputnik-V Covid19 Vaccines at the total cost US$92,500,000.00 (Ninety-two million five hundred thousand United States Dollars).
The letters of credit to be established was to cover 15% of the cost. Under the original transaction, it was to be pre-financed by SL Global and payment will be done within a period of three years. We were in the process of requesting for the term sheet and Public Procurement Authority approval when we had notification that the contract has been revised/reviewed. We received an amended contract without the relevant approval documents, so no further actions have been taken about that. We can confirm that no release of fund has been made to the Ministry of Health in this respect”.
Meanwhile, the Minority Chief Whip, has described the Health Minister’s alleged efforts to retrieve the monies paid to Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, as a mockery.
But, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak is not enthused about the Minister’s letter to the middleman requesting a refund, following the publication of the report of the Parliamentary Committee that probed the Sputnik V vaccine contract.
“I think everybody with the greatest of respect, even the common trader at Makola or Kejetia Market will tell you that when they want to buy things abroad, they would rather raise LC (Letters of Credit) so that the person is assured that his or her money is held upon delivery takes the money.
“Now we have a whole government system which pays the money when they haven’t received the product and now that the Minister has written a letter telling a private businessman to refund the money. Is it not making a mockery of all of us?” he stated.
The Asawase legislator also faulted his colleague MPs tasked to investigate the matter for not making strong recommendations, insisting the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) will move for strict punishment for the Minister, if he does not resign or dismissed by President Akufo-Addo.
“The terms of reference were very clear. Who was he dealing with? Was it a private person or government? Was it an international agreement that he needed to come to Parliament? Yes. Did he come to Parliament? No. Did he breach the Public Procurement Act? Yes.
“Almost all the terms of reference were broken, but they [Members of the Committee] did not make a strong recommendation. We [NDC] will follow through to the very end,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, since the report went public, a cross-section of the public, including the Minority, have called for the Minister to go.
Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, says his side of the aisle, will not back down on their push to get the Health Minister out of the job.
“We will not abandon this matter. If the President does not revoke the appointment of the Minister for Health, we will request him through a vote of censorship to consider that matter,” he said.
Also, the New Crusading Guide newspaper editor-in-chief, Kwaku Baako Jnr, says the Minister has to resign.
“If he is minded to… resign, I will endorse it; I will vote for him if he were to do the honourable thing and just quit. You cannot defend this.”