Minister for Health Kwaku Agyeman-Manu has stated that enthusiasm to procure the needed COVID-19 vaccines to get Ghanaians inoculated as planned informed the decision to accept overtures from agents for supplies.
He, however, noted that the engagement with these agents has not led to any financial loss to the state because the Ministry has not made any payment for the purchase of these vaccines.
He stated that though the Ministry was still looking forward to acquiring the vaccines through these agents, they have written to terminate the contract altogether after proving they could not honour their side of the bargain to bring in the doses.
The Ministry, he said, would now have to formally meet them to take a decision on how to pay for the 20,000 doses that were initially supplied as an assurance of their ability to supply the five million doses.
He added that though these agents were provided with Letters of Credit, they cannot draw any funds from the banks because the Ministry would have to give the banks specific directive for such disbursement.
Mr. Agyeman-Manu disclosed this when he appeared on the first day of sitting of the Ad Hoc Committee set to probe the acquisition of the Russian Sputnik V vaccines through middlemen on Thursday, July 15, 2021.
He indicated that the Health Ministry was compelled to engage private vendors rather than manufacturers because Ghana was then experiencing a second wave and the need for the vaccines was paramount.
He explained that private people like S.L. Global and Al Makhtoum were not part of the initial strategy but when the supply lines were cut abruptly, the need to find other suppliers became paramount.
He indicated that though Ghana had received a deliberate schedule from COVAX for the supply of doses of the AstraZeneca, just after delivery of the first supply India stopped export due to a spike in the country.
He said, “We made efforts to get all our vaccines from bilateral and multilateral institutions but immediately after India’s ban we had to look at other areas to take supplies.”
“The African Medicine Platform also announced to us that they could not supply from India and promised to supply vaccines sometime in August,” he stated.
The Ministry, he said, at a point was inundated by private vendors claiming to have the ability to get vaccines for Ghana adding, “I was uncomfortable but I imagined if all these private people say they can get the vaccines, then we can get it through these direct sources too.”
“That is what informed the Ministry’s decision to write to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and also engage the Foreign Minister to attempt to acquire the Sputnik V vaccines directly from the manufacturers,” he said.
Responding to the pricing and the fact that the US$19.00 Ghana attempted to acquire the vaccines was too high compared to the $10 being quoted in the media, the Minister explained that his team indeed bargained for a lower price but the vendors insisted on this price because of other logistics and services they promised to provide in addition.
According to him, the vendors pledged to bear the cost of transporting the vaccines to Ghana and also throw in some logistics including the syringes to be used for the vaccination exercise, which the Ministry thought was reasonable.
Hon. Agyeman-Manu admitted that the Attorney-General did advise the Ministry to seek Parliamentary approval because the agreement with Al Maktoum was an international transaction.
He, however, explained that due to the dire state the country was facing with the virus at the time, the Ministry decided to go ahead with the transaction and then rectify it at the appropriate time.
He stated that now that the contract has been formally abrogated, the Ministry will look for new sources and also seek parliamentary approval in respect to any purchases.