Clear And Apparent Contradictions In Health Ministers Statement On Covid-19 Sputnik Vaccine Contract
Ghana’s Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu’s appearance before parliament’s committee probing the procurement of C0vid-19 vaccines yesterday has raised more questions than answers.
The Minister sought to justify his failure in seeking Parliamentary approval for a contract with Sheik Maktoum to procure Covid-19 vaccines.
In his response to the committee, Mr. Agyemang Manu said the rising infection and death rates prompted him to ignore laid down procedures in signing the contract for procuring the vaccines.
“I was in a desperate and helpless situation with the management of the covid numbers. In February [this year], we had 78 deaths; by March, we had 56 deaths, and these were the numbers that pushed me to act.
In an earlier statement issued by the Ministry of Health, the Chief Director of the Ministry said the government was compelled to rely on the market for the vaccines after it failed to procure supplies directly from the Russian government.
“It should be noted that US$ 10 price per dose which is being proposed as the correct price, is the ex-factory price which is only obtained from government-to-government arrangements. Government of Ghana was unable to obtain direct supplies from the Russian government as stated earlier, hence the resort to the market,” a statement signed by the Chief Director of the MOH, Kwabena Boadu Oku Afari said.
But in his appearance before Parliament’s committee probing the issue yesterday, the Health Minister said no contacts were made with the Russian Authorities prior to signing the agreement. This is in sharp contrast with the Health Ministry’s statement that the Ministry had made contact with direct channels including engaging with Russian Authorities.
“That effort I was making reference to was direct sources from Covart, the Carob Institute of India, and the Africa Medicines Supplies Platform but not from the Russians at that time” said the Minister.
When asked why he didn’t contact RDIF or the Russians, he said he was not even aware.
“It was even the Maktoum group that made me aware of the arrangements of RDIF themselves. so not until that time I never even thought that it was RDIF the sole agent that was distributing vaccines on behalf of the manufacturer, Gamaleya in Russia. I am telling you that I didn’t even know until I met the Maktoum group”. Said Mr. Agyemang Manu
The failure of the health minister in seeking Parliamentary approval breaches provisions of Article 181(5) of the 1992 Constitution, which requires all international agreements to have Parliamentary approval.
The government signed a contract for the purchase of 3.4 million doses of the vaccine after it received an initial 15,000 doses from Sheikh Al Maktoum in March 2021. Per the agreement, a total of 3.4 million of Sputnik-V vaccines were to be procured and supplied to Ghana at US$19 excluding taxes at a total price of GH¢64 million as against the US$10 per dose ex-factory prices on the global market.