Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu admitted his ineptitude in signing the controversial Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine from Russia through a table-top contract with Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, the second-cousin of the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh l Maktuom.
The contract involved an inflated cost of US$19 per dose of the vaccine, and the Arab Shiehk was supposed to be for the supply of 3.4 million doses of the vaccine, which will cost a whopping US$ 61 million in total, instead of some US$ 40 million.
This is because Russia is selling the vaccines directly to foreign countries at US$ 10 million per dose and not the US$ 19 that the Ministry of Health was contracting out illegally to the Arab middleman.
When grilled today during a Parliamentary probe into the curious termination of the contract, on Monday, Mr. Agyeman-Manu admitted he procured the vaccines on the blind side of the Ghanaian Parliament. He justified the clandestine arrangement of the contract by claiming he was frustrated and not “thinking properly”.
The embattled minister had attempted to excuse himself by claiming he was confronted by the exigencies of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana and had to source the vaccines quickly. However, he was quickly shot down by the legislatures when they pointed out to him that there were emergency processes in Parliament that could have allowed a fast-track approval for a contract to secure the vaccines.
Afterwards, a stuttering Agyeman Manu will be caught flatfooted, saying: “I had plans to come to seek approval from the House after I have signed the contract. But [due to] my frustrations to try to get vaccines for us at the heat of the second wave, I relied on the Executive Instrument 61 passed by Parliament and hid behind emergency clauses that have been invoked to do that and come to Parliament and inform the House that this is what I had done and, therefore, I need regularisation and need the approval to provide it.”
However, his explanation would still not answer the serious questions about the trail of cover-up attempts. For instance, even though Ghana had direct access to the vaccines from Russia through strong diplomatic ties, the Ministry first contacted the middleman before getting in touch with the Russians for the vaccine.
Investigations by Whatsup News revealed that on March 9, 2021, the MoH had signed an agreement with Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktuom.
The 11-paged contract with the Dubai royal was signed by the same culprits at the MoH while the Sheikh himself and his Executive Secretary Diana Borovsysta counter-signed.
The Minister of Health dealt directly with the office of the Sheikh and went ahead to sign the contract without seeking parliamentary approval as required by law.
The Ministry claimed it had to take that route because of the urgency of the COVID-19 situation, however, they conveniently refused to disclose that the Sputnik V vaccine is traded directly by the Russian National Investment Fund (RDIF) through its subsidiary company called Human Vaccine LLC which had sold the vaccines to several other countries at US$10 per dose.
Whatsup News can report that the Russian company, Human Vaccine LLC had sold the same type of vaccine to countries like Slovakia and Hungary at US$ 10 per dose, reinforcing suspicions about the underhand dealings that had transpired in the trade with Ghana, and that some faceless individuals stood to personally benefit from the deal.
The contract for the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia to Ghana appears to have taken a similar path as the dubious contract given by the Akufo Addo administration to Frontier Healthcare Services to test every arriving passenger to the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) for COVID-19.
Whatsup News had broken the news on the Frontier deal when it found out that the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) had facilitated the entire through Professor William Kwabena Ampofo, a cousin of President Akufo Addo.
Professor Ampofo is the Coordinator of the National Laboratory for COVID 19 Testing at Noguchi. Letters obtained by Whatsup News indicate that Professor Ampofo had virtually signed off the contract with Frontier, with the Minister of Health, the Attorney-General Godfred Yeboah Dame, Foreign Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey among several government officials recently revealing that they had no idea how the Frontier contract was given.
Meanwhile, when tongues started wagging about the possibility of corruption in the Sputnik V deal with the Arab Sheikh, Mr. Agyeman-Manu suddenly announced on Thursday, July 15, 2021, that the Akufo Addo government had terminated the contract.
In their explanation, the Sheikh had written to the Ministry that he had to terminate the deal because was “is struggling to raise vaccines.”
Already, the Ghanaian public are calling for the head of the Minister. Some want him to either resign or get fired for his admitted ineptitude. Others also want the deal to be probed further because some monies had apparently changed hands already.