Minority legislators have punched holes in the Health Minister’s justification for going through middlemen to procure doses of the Russian-produced Sputnik V vaccines.
Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, said the government signed two contracts for the supply of Sputnik V vaccines at $19 and $18.5 through middlemen because of difficulties in securing vaccines through government-to-government arrangements.
He admitted, however, that such a government-to-government would have driven down the cost of the vaccines but said delays in securing that arrangement could derail Ghana’s ongoing vaccination exercise.
In Parliament on Thursday, June 24, 2021, Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said that justification is untenable.
He also argued that the contracts breach Article 181 (5) of the Constitution.
“This argument by the Minister is unconvincing to the Ghanaian populace because the decision to purchase vaccines from an intermediary does not guarantee the safety and potency of these vaccines for the people of this country.
“Indeed, WHO has warned all countries including Ghana to desist from the purchase of vaccines using intermediaries because it has the tendency of resulting in sub-standard vaccines that can be harmful to our compatriots. In any case, there still exist other channels such as the WHO, UNICEF, GAVI, COVAX etc. that can assist Ghana to obtain standard and safe vaccines set at a price far lower than the US$19 per dose rip-off,” he said.
According to him, the Minority’s own investigations into the “Sputnik V scandal” is that the Russian authorities have at all times been willing to deal directly with Ghana, contrary to the government’s claim.
“Indeed, our checks indicate that the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has opened direct engagements with over 30 governments as of February this year including African countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Tunisia, Guinea and Algeria. We have a copy of a statement RDIF issued in Moscow confirming this fact.
“We have also established that the dubious middlemen the government is dealing with have no authorisation on behalf of RDIF or Russian authorities to hold themselves out as agents. At best, they are imposters,” he stated.
The NDC Minority Leader also claimed that the middlemen made no efforts to engage the Russian Embassy when they arrived in Accra.
“Our government did not also contact them for any due diligence nor were Russian Embassy officials invited into the meetings with these shadowy characters.
“It is worth pointing out that contrary to the claims contained in the official press release of the Ministry of Health dated 9th June 2021, there is no Deputy Russian Ambassador in Ghana,” he stated.
According to the Minority Leader, even more, troubling is the Vaccine Supply Agreement between Ghana’s Health Ministry – signed by the Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu – and H.H. Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum on March 9 2021.
According to him, if such an agreement exists, then it violates Article 181 (5) of the 1992 Constitution which requires parliamentary approval for international agreements of this nature.
“It is totally unacceptable that President Nana Akufo-Addo, who has served as Foreign Affairs Minister, boldly chose to sidestep diplomatic channels and rather resorted to dealing with Russian Institutions through third parties when we have always had and maintained cordial bilateral relations with the Russian Government.
“It is also clear to us that our Foreign Ministry, led by Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey has let this country down. The abysmal failure in leveraging historic diplomatic ties with the Russians at a time we in the Minority have unfettered access to the Russians is embarrassing. She ought to be fired if she cannot meet the basic expectations of her office,” he said.
Haruna Iddrisu said the Minority is more incensed by the terms of the multiple illegal agreements which “cruelly short-changed Ghanaians” by the government’s agreement to pay $19 to $26 per jab of Sputnik V instead of the under $10 other countries and multilateral agencies like the AU purchased the very same vaccine.
“We the minority believe that this contract is not in the interest of Ghanaians and whether payments have been made or not, the contract is null and void and the government must as a matter of urgency put in the necessary steps to abrogate the contract,” he said.
He vowed that the Minority will explore further avenues under Ghana’s Constitution and Standing Orders to hold the Health Minister accountable for what he called “graft of international proportions”.