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Auditor General indicts Ghana’s Washington Mission officer over “missing” visa fees

…Ex-Tourism Minister, MP Queenstar Pokuah Sawyerr, Free SHS Secretariat also accused 

A new report of the Auditor-General shows that grand corruption and waste of public funds is not going away.  

Among a raft of findings is the indictment of the Honorary Consul General at Ghana’s Washington Mission and Houston Consulate for not being able to account for visa fees totalling US$354,760.00 (or two million cedis at prevailing exchange rates).

The Free SHS Secretariat is also accused of misapplying more than nineteen (19) million cedis of its allocations.

In addition, the Auditor-General says Ex-Tourism Minister Catherine Afeku is keeping three official vehicles despite leaving office.

MP Queenstar Pokuah Sawyerr is accused of spending GH¢39,000.00 of her MP allocation on non-existent works.

These are contained in the “Report of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana: Ministries, Departments and other Agencies for the year ended 31 December, 2020.”

The Office of the Auditor-General, under the hand of Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu, Acting Auditor-General transmitted this report to the Speaker of Parliament on 11 June, 2021. 

The big picture

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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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Full Report: Pay or Die: The agony of pregnant women in hospitals

Pregnant Nana (Not her real name) is rushed to the Maternity Unit of the 37 Military Hospital in labour.

She is a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) subscriber, meaning she did not have to pay for anything under the Free Maternal Healthcare policy but what turned up was a total cash-and-carry affair as she paid for covered services before being provided the needed healthcare upon arrival at the hospital.  

Nana and her husband, a farmworker, lacked the finances to pay for the bills so every bill given to them was followed by phone calls to relatives and friends to beg for money.

After spending over GH₵3,000.00 already on bills, the couple is hit with the tragic news: their newborn could not survive. 

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Auditor General finds 25 financial irregularities at Cape Coast varsity

…As total infractions hit GHC5.46bn at end of 2019

The Auditor General has discovered that 25 instances of financial irregularity took place at the University of Cape Coast and its various colleges and subsidiaries as at the end of 31st December, 2019. 

Corruption Watch’s tabulation of the amount of individual irregularities shows that the infractions involve a total of GHC88,289,417.16. In addition, the amount constitutes 49.09% of irregularities recorded for institutions under the ministry of education. 

According to the Auditor General, “…the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ghartey Ampiah entered into a 10 year Build, Own, Operate and Transfer Agreement with KLEOS UK Ltd for the provision of information and communication technology (ICT) services at a cost of $300,000.00 per year totalling $3,000,000.00 for the contract period without seeking approval from the University Council, the Minister of Education and Public Procurement before committing the University to such financial obligation.” 

The “contract signed by the Vice Chancellor was only witnessed by the Director of ICT services Dr. Regina Gyampoh-Vidogah. Consequently, the Auditor General recommended that “the Vice Chancellor should submit the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer Agreement (BOOT) with KLEOS UK Ltd to the University Council, Minister of Education and Public Procurement Authority for approval, failing which the sanctions in section 92 (1) of the Public Procurement Act shall be applied.”

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New Public Officers Bill will boost fight against corruption – Attorney General

Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame is confident a new Conduct of Public Officers Bill to be presented to Parliament will boost the fight against corruption.

This bill, he explains, is to strengthen the role of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to investigate various matters involving Public Officers.

This includes issues of conflict of interest, non-declaration of assets, among others.

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Let’s use ‘reward them, let them do more’ approach to fight corruption – GII

Executive Director of Ghana Integrity lnitiative (GII) Linda Ofori-Kwafo, has recommended the use of an awards system approach in the fight against corruption. 

 ‘‘We are not saying an award system alone is going to minimize corruption, but we say it is complementing our efforts. In this current award system, we don’t punish but actually reward by praising and letting the public know the good works of most people. It is preventive,’’ she said. 

 Mrs Ofori-Kwafo said this at the launch of the 2021 Ghana Integrity Awards (GIAwards) sponsored by the Netherlands Embassy in Accra under the Multi Stakeholders Business Integrity Forum project to recognise outstanding individuals, private and public sector institutions making a significant contribution to combat corruption in the country. 

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Corruption Watch Breakdown of ‘Auditor General’s Report on Public Accounts’

Introduction 

The document we focusing on is the “Report of the Auditor-General on the Public  Accounts of Ghana: Ministries, Departments and other Agencies for the year  ended 31 December, 2020.” 

The Office of the Auditor-General, under the hand of Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu, Acting Auditor-General transmitted this report to the Speaker of Parliament on 11  June, 2021.  

The report states that when the Auditor-General and his team set out to Audit  accounts of MDAs to ascertain the state of their accounts at the close of the year  2020, they were guided by certain objectives.  

They set out to determine whether: 

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Manasseh Azure Awuni grabs top award

Investigative journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni has received the coveted Millennium Excellence Award for Journalism and Media Personality.

The recognition was conferred on him by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II and the illustrious Board of Governors of the Millennium Excellence Foundation on Saturday.

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Anti-Corruption Day: GII urges Ghana to investigate alleged corruption cases

The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), the local chapter of Transparency International, on the African Union (AU) Anti-Corruption Day, reminds Ghana of alleged corruption cases needing urgent and transparent investigations.

A statement issued by the GII, copied to the Ghana News Agency, said the allegations of corruption in the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine (Sputnik V) from Russia was unresolved and that Government’s silence on the matter was deafening.

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Martin Amidu: Anti-corruption CSOs’ nomination onto OSP board mustn’t be rigged again

The public must be reminded that the three-year mandate of the Governing Board of the Office of the Special Prosecutor expired at midnight on 11″ July 2021 without word from the President or the Office to the public.

On Thursday, 12th July 2018 the Board of the Governing Board of the Office of the Special Prosecutor was sworn in by the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, supposedly to make “the anti-corruption body now, fully ready to execute its mandate” (July 12, GNA).

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Fiscal Decentralisation: Domelevo calls for district/regional budgets

Mr Daniel Yaw Domelevo, a former Auditor-General, has advocated the creation of district and regional budgets as part of efforts to ensure effective fiscal decentralisation.

That, he said, would ensure each district and region received its fair share of the national cake.

“I think over-centralisation is the major contributor to the corruption that we have in our country,” Mr Domelevo said in a virtual presentation at the maiden Domelevo Accountability Annual Lectures held in Accra.

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Investigative journalist urges anti-corruption institutions to strengthen collaboration

Mr Manasseh Azure Awuni, an investigative journalist, has urged anti-corruption institutions to strengthen collaboration with one another in the fight against corruption.

He said the agents of corruption operate in networks, and therefore, those fighting corruption must also collaborate in order to make the needed impact.

“There have been times anti-corruption agencies are used by the political authority to harass others. What is even strange is that ant graft institutions sometimes fight each other,” Mr Awuni stated in his address at the maiden Domelevo Accountability Lectures 2021.

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