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Commonwealth Report details how Ghana blew $2.1 billion covid-19 cash on corrupt deals

A corruption risk assessment report by the Community Development Alliance (CDA-Ghana) and the Commonwealth Foundation, has detailed how Ghana allegedly blew a large chunk of its over $2.1 billion Coronavirus (covid-19) cash on corrupt deals.

The 67-page report was released recently and raised corruption flag over most contracts awarded and coronavirus expenditures made by the President Nana Akufo-Addo-led New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government.

The report titled: “Strengthening Covid-19 Accountability Mechanisms (SCAM)”, revealed a number of stinky and shady coronavirus related deals undertaken by the Ghanaian Government.

Total amount accessed so far

“Government of Ghana have accessed and utlised GHC12,440,710,000 ($2,144,950,000) from sources such as the World Bank, IMF, Ghana Stabilization Fund, Contingency Fund of the Stabilization Fund, Ghana Heritage Fund, Ghana Exim Bank and the Covid-19 Trust Fund set up by the government,” the Executive Summary of the report revealed.

According to the report , “This assessment clusters Ghana’s COVID-19 corruption risks around two main issues – irregular procurement practices that violates Ghana procurement laws and corruption risks that indicates that there has been substantial breaches of anti-corruption laws, regulations, codes and international conventions and best practices.”

“This assessment addresses corruption risks associated with public procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana. The assessment was carried out in March – April 2021, based on a review of background documentation, including the national legal regulatory framework for public procurement, with focus on integrity related issues, official records in both electronic and hard copy formats, checks with state agencies, and interviews governance and anti-corruption experts,” it added.

“International regulatory framework, in particular World Bank directives on public procurement, have been taken into account for best practice evaluation.
The assessment included an evaluation of the institutional framework in the field, including its operational capacities, efficiency of integrity mechanisms, control and sanctions. Individual interviews have been held with the stakeholders of the national procurement (regulators, contracting authorities, control bodies and civil society organizations) to identify problems and risk sectors,” it said.

‘Irregular Procurement’

The report cited “irregular procurement” in the award of contract to four Ghanaian garment manufacturing companies.

According to the report, the four companies ” had been given loans of $10 million through the Ghana Exim Bank to produce PPEs, face masks, medical scrubs, hospital gowns and head gears.”

The report said the award of the contract to the four companies “was without tender and the companies had been selected.”

It added that “the companies were also not registered with the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) at the time of contract award.”

According to the report, “a $1m contract awarded to develop the COVID-19 tracker app to two foreign companies namely iQuent Technologies and Ascend Digital Solutions (registered in Jersey, a tax haven) was irregular.”

“The two companies were not legal persons in Ghana at time of contract award, were not registered with the PPA, and did not go through tender,” the report added.

On April 13, 2020, Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia launched the Gh covid-19 tracker app.

The app was launched to help boost the Ghanaian Government’s fight against coronavirus in Ghana.

Dr. Bawumia noted at the launch of the app that “It will help us easily track people with the virus, [and] those who have had contact with others. It is also useful in quarantine reliability, in case certain individuals need self-quarantine”, touting that Ghana is one of the few countries to deploy such a tracker.

Meanwhile, the report stated  that “Contracts worth GH¢60m for fumigation services and logistics such as sanitizers, masks, dustbins, cleaning kits etc to all districts by the Ministry of Local Government from its allocation under the District Assemblies Common Fund for the 2020 fiscal year was mostly without tenders.”

Again, it said “contract awarded to Frontiers Healthcare Solution Services Lim- ited to conduct Covid-19 antigen tests at the Kotoka International Air- port was without tender, the company was not registered with PPA and unlisenced by the health facilities regulator, HEFRA.”

It noted that “contract for nationwide disinfection and fumigation of over 464 markets was awarded to Zoomlion on sole source basis, in addition to another contract by the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service to disinfect and fumigate over 850 High Schools across Gha- na and 3700 schools in the Greater Accra region.”

 Corruption Risk

According to the report, “Contract for supply of 18,000 Ve- ronica Buckets; 800,000 pieces of 200-millilitre sanitizers; 36,000 rolls of tissue paper; 36,000 gallons of liquid soap and 7,200 thermometer guns distributed to schools were opaque and not tendered. Its un- clear who the suppliers were and • how much was spent on this pro- curement.”

Furthermore, the report indicated that the contract  for provision of hot meals for 540,000 final students and teachers who sat for the 2020 WASSCE and BECE exams for three weeks was opaque, with no full disclosure of who were awarded these contracts, from which fund the contracts were awarded.

It revealed that there appears to be an issue with funds of $1.2million meant for the payment of 900 contact tracers employed by the Ghana Health Ser- vice to work on case detection, contact tracing and reporting, 600 of whom dropped out later due to var- ious grievances, chief among them the erratic payment of their daily allowance of $25 (GH¢150.00).

A corruption risk arises over whether an employment contract regulated the work of the contact tracers, the terms of their engagement, how much was actually paid to them, for how long and why 600 of them dropped out, according to the report.

A $1m contract awarded to develop the COVID-19 tracker app to two foreign companies namely iQuent Technologies and Ascend Digital Solutions raises substantial cor- ruption issues. Ascend Digital Solutions was registered just a month before contract award in Jersey, a tax haven and the contract sum ap- pear bloated. Same applies to the GH¢1.4m ($240,000) spent on the launch of the tracker, the report stressed.

Donations

Ghana recorded its first two coronavirus cases in March 2020. Since then, African Entertainment has tracked several companies donating in kind and cash to the National Covid-19 Trust Fund and the Government of Ghana.

For instance in 2020, Zenith Bank Ghana alone donated Ghc 1,000,000 at a ceremony held at the Information Ministry in Accra towards the fight against coronavirus.

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), among a host of other corporate institutions have donated cash to the Akufo-Addo Government towards the fight against coronavirus.

But CDA-Ghana and Commonwealth Foundation believe there are corrupt deals that have gone on as far as spending the donated funds is concerned.

The report recounted that “On March 19, 2020, a panel of 80 finance ministers, presidential aides and central bankers held a virtual conference with the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on how Africa could respond to the pandemic. Co-chaired by South African Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni and Ghana’s Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, the conclusions of the financial impact assessment were only shared with government officials.”

It added that “Following the virtual briefing, ECA Secretary-General Vera Songwe, sent a private letter to the IMF and the World Bank, co-signed by Mboweni and Ofori-Atta, asking for “$100 billion for the immediate response” to the widening pandemic, with contributions from the World Bank, the IMF, the European Investment Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Afreximbank.”

“The letter also asked for an “immediate waiver of all interest payments on all debt estimated at US$44million for 2020 with possible extension to the medium term”. On April 13, 2020, the IMF Executive Board approved the disbursement of US$1 billion to Ghana to be drawn under the Rapid Credit Facility,” it added.

“The Government of Ghana (GoG) announced a series of response measures involving huge expenditure outlay estimated at over $2 billion part of which was a Rapid Credit Facility From The International Monetary Fund (IMF) of $1 billion. Despite the huge expenditure outlay announced by the government of Ghana in its response to fighting Covid-19 pandemic; an Anti-Corruption Tracker published on the website of Transparency International has flagged Ghana as one of the “high corruption risk countries which have failed to put in place anti-corruption measures, as part of their COVID-19 financial assistance and debt relief from the IMF”, it stated.

Common cliché for breaking procurement regulations

“The pandemic no doubt has created conditions in which corruption could flourish. The common cliché by government officials “we are not in normal times” as an excuse to circumvent procurement regulations further heightens the corruption risk associated with government response to fighting the pandemic which has the potential to exacerbate and prolong the negative effects of the crisis on the lives of poor and vulnerable populations in Ghana.
It is against this backdrop and in line with its mandate; CDA-Ghana in February 2021, secured a 10-month small-grant project funding from the Commonwealth Foundation (CF) to implement a citizens-led advocacy and social accountability action titled Strengthening Covid-19 Accountability Mechanisms (SCAM). The SCAM Project will use evidence generated to trigger citizens led anti-corruption advocacy actions including possible engagements with relevant committees of Parliament, government so as to strengthen Covid-19 ministries, departments and agencies of Accountability Mechanisms in Ghana,” it said.

Source : africanentertainment.com

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