A private legal practitioner, Alexander Twum-Barimah has expressed disappointment in the Attorney-General’s Department and former Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu over a contract entered with the government of Ghana to test travelers for COVID-19 at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).
The Minister-designate for Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, who served as sector minister in the first term of the Akufo-Addo government stated he was not involved in the initial stages of procuring COVID-19 testing facility at KIA.
Agyeman-Manu told Parliament’s Appointments Committee that, “I am not very privy to the initial stages of the procurement because it was a joint operation between the National Covid-19 taskforce and the Ghana Health Service (GHS). By the time it came to my notice, they had finished the arrangements.”
Former Deputy Attorney General who has been nominated as Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Dame, also said he was not privy to the said contract.
The development has led to the NDC caucus in Parliament calling for parliamentary investigations into the US$150 as cost of the COVID-19 antigen test.
Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who led the cause said the test was expensive.
“Malawi charges $25, Malaysia $28, India (Goa Airport) $28, India (Veer Savarkar International Airport) $7, UK (Heathrow Airport, London) $70. What is even more striking is the realisation that the overwhelming majority of countries with the more superior PCR tests at their airports have charges that are shockingly far cheaper than Ghana’s ANTIGEN test cost. A few references: Togo charges $80 for a PCR test, Sierra Leone charges $80, Senegal charges $75, Rwanda charges $60, Djibouti charges $28, Germany charges $70 and Turkey has only a $16 charge for a PCR test,” he said in a statement.
But reacting to the suggestion of the NDC caucus on Morning Update on TV XYZ, Mr. Twum Barimah said the leadership at the Foreign Affairs, Health, and Justice Ministries had done a disservice to Ghanaians, noting that was a neglect of duty on the part of the sector ministers.
To the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice, the lawyer asked, “Let’s assume that there should be a problem contractually between that institution and Ghana or let's say that institution and Ghana Airport Company and they happen to sue Ghana Airport Company will the Attorney General now come in?”
“How can we be living in a country like this? Who is in charge of affairs of this country? Who is in charge ?” he quizzed while expressing disappointment at the assertion of Mr. Dame who said he wasn’t aware of the contractual terms of the agreement.
To the former Minister of Health, Twum Barima asked, “How can a whole Health Minister not be aware of the contract?”
He said the issue at stake “is health-related so the minister must know” and went on to chastise the government for the blame game at the centre of the testing contract.
“Even if the minister (Agyeman-Manu) was not aware, hasn’t it occurred to him that he should ask and know something about it?” he fumed.
On his part, the Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), John Mensah Mawutor, also expressed disappointment about the issue and wondered why the NDC caucus had not raised the issue on the floor of the House when the contract was initially signed.
“If you want to look at the powers of Parliament, before this vetting they had all the powers to subpoena any Ministry, Agency to come and answer questions…Rather they focus their attention on what they should have done earlier,” Mawutor noted.
“The steps made by Honourable Okudzeto and the Minority should have been taken sometime back last year when you started asking all these questions…Opposition is there to ensure that the party in power in charge of the state does the right thing,” he added.
He urged Parliament to be proactive and deal with such issues in the interest of the nation rather than wait till vetting before they point out wrongdoings to appointees.