COMMOTION ERUPTS OVER KIA COVID-19 TEST CONTRACT

Deputy Minister for Health, Dr. Bernard Okoe-Boye has for the first time admitted that the award of contract for COVID-19 testing at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) to an offshore company was sole-sourced by the government.

In what many see as shocking, the Minister also revealed that it was rather Ghana Airport Company Ltd (GACL) not the Ministry of Health which entered into the contract with Frontiers Healthcare Services Ltd.

Speaking on Starr FM the Ministers said “…And let me add that the employer, the one who signed a contract with [Frontier Healthcare] is the Ghana Airport Company,” Okoe-Boye told Accra-based Starr FM.

“Maybe if we had to go fishing for an alternative, we might end up with another three months, six months to open the airport. So we went with this solutions provider,” in a rather contradictory note, Okoe-Boye justified the contract as though it was secured by the Ministry of Health.

Whilst the terms of the contract is yet to be disclosed, Whatsup News has gathered that Ghana Airport Company receives a paltry $4 out of the $150 charged to passengers. It is also not known whether the $4 GACL receives is ground rent, royalty, or dividend from the contract, which Okoe-Boye claims is a private-public partnership.

With the Ministry disassociating themselves from the award of the contract, insiders are now questioning whether GACL possesses the legal capacity to award a health contract since health matters at the airport is handled by the Port Health, which falls under the Ministry of Health directly.

Meanwhile, GACL itself says they are just an implementing agency under the Ministry of Aviation and that “The Company was registered in January 2006 with specific responsibility for planning, developing, managing and maintaining all airports and aerodromes in Ghana including Kotoka International Airport (KIA), Kumasi Airport, Tamale Airport, Sunyani Airport, Ho Airport, WA Airstrip as well as various Airstrips” 

Eeven though the Minister for Aviation was not readily available for comments, Whatsup news has gathered that the Ministry of Aviation was not involved in the award of the contract and that GACL did not involve its sector Minister.

The Deputy Minister’s revelation has stirred serious confusion around the controversial contract at Kotoka International Airport (KIA).

Whatsup News has however followed the paper trail of the transaction and can state that the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research (NMIMR) was more likely the institution used to start the dubious Covid-19 test at KIA.

When asked about why the cost of the COVID test is $150, The Deputy Minister who was speaking on Starr Fm in Accra said that he was of the opinion that the cost of the COVID test should have been under $100.

He said the service provider (Frontier Healthcare Services Ltd) insisted that travelers who were arriving in Ghana in the early part of the COVID pandemic were being quarantined for two weeks at their own cost of about $700-$800 a week and were responsible for their food twice a day.

But insiders point to the fact that using the prices of hotels and the total cost of quarantine as the benchmark for the costing of the COVID test at the airport was wrong.

A senior staff of GACL said “it didn’t matter if the cost of quarantine was even $10,000. The issues is that you are providing a service, you have to cost your product and tell us this is the cost, you don’t have to say that if they go into quarantine they will spend this much, then those who were negotiating contract should have also said to Frontiers that ok, then we shall also open the door for more people to come in so that we can get a better deal.

“This is neither here nor there. As it turned, Ghana COVID Test at the airport was the third highest in the whole world. Since then, I have heard that Benin, which was the second highest at $160, has since reduced its price to around $90, this makes Ghana’s covid 19 test the second highest in the world.”

The Minister criticized passengers who could not pay or who complained about the cost of COVID at the airport and said if they can’t pay, they should stay home and avoid travels. He wondered how people who can afford to buy tickets can claim that they can’t afford $150 COVID test.

The Deputy Minister also suggested that travelers who feel they can’t pay can call on Ghana missions abroad and ask for help.

Minister Okoe-Boye hinted that government is negotiating with the Frontiers Healthcare Services to reduce the price.   

An August 27, 2020 a letter written by Dr. Emmanuel Acquaye, who claimed to be a Director at Frontier Healthcare Services, seeking partnership with Noguchi was intercepted by Whatsup News.

The letter was addressed to Professor William Kwabena Ampofo who is the Coordinator of the National Laboratory for COVID 19 Testing at Noguchi. Incidentally, Prof. Ampofo is a direct cousin to President Akufo Addo whose friend is Benedict Peters, a Nigerian billionaire linked to the parent company of Frontier Healthcare that is registered in a notorious tax haven-Dominica. 

Indeed, due to the amorphous nature of the supposed contract with Frontier Healthcare Services to undertake the testing at the airport, civil society organizations are calling for a thorough investigation into the transaction.

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