The Minister for Health, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, has said that despite the frustrations he was going through in the peak of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), he acted in accordance with Executive Instrument (E.I) 61 to procure Sputnik-V vaccines to save Ghanaians from the second wave of the deadly virus.
The action he took, he noted, required getting the vaccines through a middleman, considering the exigency of the time.
Appearing before the Afenyo-Markin chaired Parliamentary Adhoc Committee probing the purchase of Sputnik-V vaccines through a middleman, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, on Monday, July 19, 2021, to respond to some questions, Mr. Agyemang-Manu said, he couldn’t obtain a Parliamentary approval of the deal, having already sought refuge in Executive Instrument (E.I.) 61.
“Mr. Chairman, in my frustrations to try to get vaccines for us at the heat of our second wave, I relied on the Executive Instrument 61 that was passed by Parliament to hide behind the emergency clauses that have been evoked to try to see if I could do that and come to Parliament to inform Parliament that this is what I have done and therefore, I needed regularization or approval because we were in dire need of the vaccines and I had the onus [responsibility] to try to procure the vaccines to vaccinate Ghanaians to protect our lives”, he noted.
The E.I. 61 which was passed by Parliament empowers the Minister for Health, to having recognized the threat of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to life and health and its potential to escalate and cause danger to the life and health of people living in Ghana, to declare a public health emergency.
This is in conformity of Sections 169 and 170 of the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851).
The public health emergency situation, therefore, demands emergency action, Mr. Agyemang-Manu had told Parliament when the matter cropped up for the first time on the floor of the House almost fortnight ago.
His response was not accepted by the Ranking Member of the Vice-Chairman of the Committee, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, who reminded him about the international and or commercial nature of the transaction which required Parliamentary approval.
The calm looking Health Minister was quick to admit that he erred by ignoring such a requirement but added that that, in all his dealings, he had planned of going to Parliament to regularize the purchase of the Sputnik-V vaccines.
“Hon. Chair, I must be very honest with you, at the time I have mentioned my frustration was the fact that, I seriously made that error and that on hindsight, it won’t happen any longer”, he noted.
Akandoh who least enthused about the response of the Health Minister probed further by asking Mr. Agyemang-Manu why he didn’t take advantage of how Parliament has been handling emergency cases considering its numerous rules of and conventions.
Mr. Agyemang-Manu who is also the NPP MP for Dormaa Central in sharp rebuttal said “Those were not normal times and I was seriously in a situation that couldn’t make me think properly the way we think now”.
He however, assured the Committee that such blunder on his part will not be repeated.
When also quizzed by the NDC MP for Techiman North, Elizabeth Ofosu-Agyare, member of the Committee, why he ignored all the diplomatic channels available to him in getting the vaccines from the manufacturer or Russia, the Health Minister said all those channels were triggered but proved futile, hence, his dealings with Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum of Dubai.
On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, the Government of Ghana signed a purchase contract worth about US$64.6million for 3.4 million doses of the vaccine after it received an initial 15,000 doses from Sheikh Al Maktoum.
However, the said contract was terminated on JULY 15, 2021 following concerns raised by the Minority Caucus in Parliament over the procedures deployed by the Ministry of Health to procure the vaccines, a position the Ministry opposed to.
The Ministry of Health had said that Sheikh Maktoum was struggling to raise the vaccines, hence, the termination of the contract.
The Minority Caucus, not satisfied with the answer given by the Ministry, raised the matter on the floor of the Parliament and prayed to the Speaker to set up a Committee to probe the matter.
This was agreed by the Majority Caucus, resulting in the setting up of a nine-member Adhoc Committee chaired by the deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin with the NDC MP for Juaboso, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, being the Vice-Chairman.
The rest of the members are Dr. Nana Ayew Afriyie, Chairman of the Health Committee, Mr. Bernard Ahiafor, NDC MP for Akatsi South, Mr. Kwame Anyimadu Antwi, NPP MP for Asante-Akim Central, Mr. Ernest Norgbey, NDC MP for Ashaiman, Mrs. Elizabeth Ofosu –Agyare, NDC MP for Techiman North, Ms. Sheila Bartels, NPP MP for Ablekuma North, and Mr. Farouk Aliu Mahama, NPP MP for Yendi.