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Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, believes the COVID-19 vaccine inequality has left countries like Ghana at the risk of middlemen and deals like the controversial procurement of Sputnik V vaccine doses by the Health Ministry.
Speaking to a journalist with Norwegian newspaper VG, Mr. Ofori-Atta said vaccine inequality “leaves people in Africa subject to more of such dependencies and such unethical commercial transactions.”
He added that the inequalities in vaccine distribution, which have been condemned by the World Health Organisation, are “quite saddening and unacceptable.”
VG was the news outlet that reported that the government was using the services of middlemen to procure 3.4 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccines at $19 instead of the factory price of $10 prompting a probe and the cancellation of the deal.
The Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, has also been under fire for approving the deal without due process, and there have been calls for his resignation.
But Mr. Ofori-Atta was more understanding of his fellow minister’s conduct because of the current context of no access to vaccines.
He said Mr. Agyeman-Manu was being “inundated with all sort of modern-day middlemen.”
Mr. Ofori-Atta even described some of them as snake oil salesmen.
He, however, said he never dealt directly with them.
“I am not the one to be looking at the efficacy [of marketed vaccines] and etc and therefore, I take my instructions from the Ministry of Health after they have gone through their due diligence.”
When asked if the deal was reasonable, Mr. Ofori Atta suggested the welfare of Ghanaians was the priority.
“You are confronted with the good guys from the west not giving any assurance of supply, and you have 30 million lives to save. It is very easy to sit somewhere and say why are you doing this? [But] you need to make sure you protect your people, so you manage that as well as you can.”
Refund from middleman
Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, the Dubai-based businessman the Ministry of Health contacted for the procurement of 300,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, has since refunded $2,470,000 to Ghana, according to documents sighted by Citi News.
Ghana had already taken delivery of 20,000 out of 300,000 doses of the vaccine expected.
Sheikh Al Maktoum had been paid $2,850,000 for his services out of an expected $5,700,000.
The parliamentary committee set up to probe the deal noted that the Health Ministry did not receive Cabinet approval for the deal.
The health Ministry also breached the constitution by not seeking parliamentary approval for the agreement.
In addition, the Public Procurement Authority did not seek approval from its Board before signing the Agreements.