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A Corruption Watch Summary of the Sputnik vaccine procurement saga

Last week, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, admitted a motion from the Minority asking for the constitution of a bi-partisan committee to investigate the  purchase of Sputnik V vaccines by the Health Ministry. 

The Minority had tabled an urgent motion calling on parliament to probe the Sputnik V vaccine transaction. The motion was based on reports that the government had agreed to purchase the vaccine at $19 per dose instead of $10 per dose. 

The sponsors of the bill, including Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu and Ranking Member on the Health Committee, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh say they want to understand the procurement processes that were used as well as demand value for  money for the Ghanaian taxpayer. 

On June 3, 2021, Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG) published that it had documented how intermediaries have obtained the Sputnik vaccine and are re-selling it at a premium. “Through investigations in countries including Ghana,  Russia, Pakistan, Guyana and Iraq, VG has been able to document how the Russian vaccines have travelled via a sheik in the Emirates and round the world,” VG  reported.  

VG’s report investigates the involvement of two persons of interest to Norwegian  authorities – Per Morten Hansen (59), a man charged with money laundering and  tax offences in Norway and Umar Farooq Zahoor (45), a wanted man in Norway for what the police believe is his role in the spectacular Nordea fraud in 2010, where the conspirators emptied the account of a super-rich widow. 

For Ghanaians, the brow raisers from the VG report were the price per dose of the Sputnik V vaccine – going for $19; meaning full vaccination of one person would  cost $38 minimum.  

The other matter of concern for Ghanaians was that the Ministry of Health had contracted the “Private Office” of Sheik Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum (34) for the supply of the Russian-made vaccines.  

Coincidentally, when Sheik Al Maktoum sold the controversial AMERI Plant to Ghana via the company Ameri Group in 2015, Farooq Zahoor and the Sheik both  signed the agreement. 

These details provoked some MPs on the minority side of parliament to move the motion for a bi-partisan committee to probe the contract between government the Sheik Ahmed Al Maktoum. 

In the aftermath of the VG report, details of other contracts have filtered through.  

It has emerged that the Ministry of Health signed a separate agreement with SL Global Limited for the supply of five million doses of the same Sputnik V vaccine.  In the agreement, government agreed to pay $26 dollars per dose of the vaccine, meaning a complete pack will cost $52 per person.  

Documents show that this agreement was amended to change the price per dose  from $26 to $18.50. 

In that agreement, Cedar Point Chemist Limited – a pharmaceutical importer and  wholesaler – was designated the “Marketing Authorisation Holder” of the vaccine  in Ghana.  

Details of a third deal are filtering through. This third deal, our sources claim, has not been fully consummated but could be pushed through soon. It involves a  proposal from UK-based Gemcorp Capital LLP in partnership with Cedar Point  Company Limited (same one appointed in the SL Global deal) which was  submitted in April this year to supply 15 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine at  a cost of $12.50 per dose.

A letter dated April 22, 2021 relating to this deal was written to the Minister of  Health by Atanas Bostandjiev, the Group CEO of Gemcorp. It was copied to the Secretary to President Akufo Addo. 

Corruption Watch sources say that there are more contracts on the books for the  Sputnik V vaccine. Some of them, our sources say, have terms that are unfair in the  sense that they pose corruption risks, do not assure value for money, and appear as  take or pay agreements that could result in huge compensations if cancelled.  

Besides, all the three agreements we have highlighted are potentially international  agreements. However, none has gone through parliament. 

Corruption Watch has discovered that SL Global Limited, which many Ghanaians considered to be a Ghanaian company, cannot be classified as a local company. 

Company registration records reveal that Arthur Kweku Ackah-Yensu and Great  Continent Holdings International Limited (a company registered in the Gulf) have  equal shares in SL Global Company Limited. Ghanaian company and land  ownership laws stipulate that a company registered in Ghana with minimum 40  percent foreign ownership shall be classified as a foreign firm. Therefore, the agreement should have been submitted to parliament for ratification. 

Before VG published its report on Ghana’s purchase of Sputnik V vaccines in the  contract with the Private Office of Sheikh Al Maktoum, Finance Minister Ken  Ofori-Atta disclosed the presence of “snake oil salesmen” in the corridors of the Ministry of Health. 

Source: Frederick Asiamah (Corruption Watch)

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