Saturday, 03 June

Gov't still owes ₵14m for free 'Covid' water: CWSA CEO

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Community water

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Mr Worlanyo K. Siabi, has revealed that the government is left with outstanding arrears of 14 million Ghana cedis of Covid- 19 free water supplied to various water distribution companies in the various Metropolitan, Municipal District Assembles (MMDAs). 

Speaking at the Public Account Committee hearing, the Chief Executive officer of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Mr Worlanyo K. Siabi, said a total of 37 million Ghana cedis for water systems managed under community management out of which GHS22 million has been disbursed to the MMDAs.

Speaking to Class 91.3 FM, the Accountant at the Kitampo Water Supply System, Mr Seth Asamoah Afriyie, said the indebtedness of public institutions to the various utility companies is collapsing their operations.

He lamented that out of a total debt of GHS569,000, GHS368000 is owed by state institutions that have still not paid since 2020.

Meanwhile, the National Democratic Congress has described as “dubious”, the payment, by the Ministry of Finance, of more than GH¢37 million to some NGOs and private water sellers who provided free water to metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies during the height of the Covid outbreak.

At a press conference on the Auditor-General’s report on the Covid funds, the National Communications Officer of the NDC, Mr Sammy Gyamfi, told journalists on Wednesday, 1 February 2023: “The Auditor-General also noted that in line with update No.6 of the President’s address to the Nation of 9th April 2020, non-governmental organisations and individual private water sellers provided free water services to their clients and customers at the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies from April 2020 to December 2020 and submitted a total bill of GH¢37,609,791.71 for 2020”.

“However, a review of COVID-19 free water bills at the Community Water and Sanitation Agency by the Auditor-General disclosed that there were no actual water bills generated and submitted to the Agency by the NGOs and Private Individual Water providers to support their claims”. 

“The Auditor-General could not verify the bill and validate the dubious payment of GH¢37,609,791.71 by the Ministry of Finance to these NGOs”.

Read the NDC’s full statement below:

A MOMENT OF TRUTH PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER OF THE NDC, COMRADE SAMMY GYMAFI ESQ. ON THE AUDITOR GENERAL’S REPORT ON THE GOVERNMENT’S COVID-19 EXPENDITURES.

1st February, 2023.

Good morning, distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the media.

We are highly pleased to have you here in your numbers, as we resume full duties under our ‘Moment of Truth’ series. We wish to assure you of our commitment to serve you with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in these engagements.

Friends from the media, we should like to believe, that by now, you all in the media have sighted the report of the Auditor-General on a special audit conducted by his office into the COVID-19 expenditures of the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government for the period, March 2020 to June 2022.

In the very recent past, you have seen calls by the Minority in Parliament, the NDC and other well-meaning Ghanaians for accountability relative to COVID expenditures being met with fierce opposition from the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government. Indeed, you all will bear witness to the fact that, the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government has been as scared and petrified about calls for an audit into COVID-19 expenditures, as an old lady would be over the mention of dry bones.

Today, it has become apparent that behind that morbid fear of accountability, was an attempt to conceal from the Ghanaian people, what some of us have always known to be stinking rot, high-profile corruption, naked thievery and the misuse of COVID funds by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government. As it is often said, the chickens are finally come home to roost through this special audit report, which in our opinion is a highly charitable and watered down account of how COVID-19 funds have been expended by government.

The report nonetheless reveals jaw-dropping details of how various officials and assigns of this government misapplied, misused and in some cases, wilfully looted the unprecedented resource envelope that accrued to the NPP-Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Auditor-General’s report reveals that, by the kind courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghana benefitted immensely from unprecedented inflows of funds from various sources, such as the World Bank, the International Monitory Fund, the Africa Development Bank, the European Union, the Contingency Fund and the sale of BOG-COVID-19 Bonds among others. These funds, the report estimates to amount to a total of Twenty-One Billion, Eight-hundred and forty-four million, One-hundred and eighty-nine thousand, one-hundred and eighty-five Ghana cedis, twenty-four pesewas (GHS 21,844,189,185.24).

We must emphasise here that this amount excludes other COVID-related funds such as the $1 Billion facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), being Ghana’s share of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to boost post-COVID economic recovery of member countries. The Auditor-General’s estimate also excludes the over GHS62 million that accrued to the COVID-19 Trust Fund which was established by an Act of Parliament to help mobilise funds to complement government’s fight against the pandemic.

These notwithstanding, the report observed that out of the total amount of GHS21.8 billion that accrued to the Government of Ghana, only GHS11, 750,683,059.11 was spent on COVID-19 activities while the rest of the money (precisely GHS10, 093,506,126.13) was spent on so-called “budget support”.  The animal call “budget support” as we would later realise, was the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government’s euphemism for their reckless and wasteful election-driven expenses which resulted in an unprecedented budget deficit of 15.7% in the year 2020.

We shall now discuss fifteen (15) key highlights of the shocking revelations contained in the Auditor General’s report on government’s COVID-19 expenditures:

1. Firstly, the Auditor-General’s report details how the Ministry of Health paid a total of US$120,192,379.80 to UNICEF for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines but only received vaccines valued at US$38,322,000.00, with a whopping $81.8 million of the transaction unaccounted for.

This, ladies and gentlemen, raises serious concerns given the history of the current Minister of Health, under whose watch Ghana entered into the dubious Sputnik V vaccine contract and paid a colossal amount of money for vaccines which were never supplied.

It would be recalled how the government of Ghana, led by the Health Minister, Kweku Agyemang Menu, chose to pay $19 per dose of Sputnik V vaccine through a phony middleman called Sheik Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum of the UAE, when Ghana could have easily bought these vaccines directly from the Russian government at a unit cost of $10 or less.

Fellow countrymen and women, we in the NDC are very concerned, that despite the dire economic crises confronting the nation, the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government has neglected and/or failed to retrieve the outstanding amount of $81.8 million, which could have been channeled into other developmental ventures to ameliorate the plight of suffering Ghanaians.

2. Secondly, the Auditor-General’s report reveals how the Ministry of Health recklessly paid an amount of GHS10,309,919.94 as premium for Special Life Insurance Cover for 10,000 frontline Health Workers without any Life Insurance Policy document and beneficiary list.

We find it intriguing, how such a huge life insurance premium was arrived at without a beneficiary list detailing names of beneficiaries, their dates of birth and other relevant information-which should have formed the very basis of the premium.

This reckless misuse of COVID-19 funds by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government does not come to us as a surprise, given the fact that the insurance company that got 30% of the booty is Enterprise Insurance, a company closely associated with the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta. It is a known fact within the insurance fraternity, that Enterprise Insurance on whose board the wife of the Finance Minister, Angela Ofori-Atta sits, today enjoys unfettered control over government insurances, as typified by this very questionable arrangement.

3. Thirdly, friends from the media, the Auditor-General’s report avers that a contractor who has been awarded a contract at Nalerigu in the North East Region to build a holding, treatment and isolation centre, worth US$15,000,000.00, abandoned the project after receiving advance payment amounting to US$4,500,000.00.

It is sad to note that this colossal amount was paid without the contractor submitting any performance bond or guarantee whatsoever as best practice demands. This is a clear case of financial loss to the Ghanaian taxpayer and must not go unpunished.

4. Friends from the media, the Auditor-General’s report also details how the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Health paid an amount of US$607,419.02 in the year 2022 for the supply of twenty-six (26) Toyota Hiace Deluxe Ambulances valued at a total cost of US$4,049,460.12. According to the Auditor General, the delivery date of the said ambulances was 15th January, 2022. However, one year down the line, these ambulances are yet to be delivered.

The irony here, ladies and gentlemen, is that, the man at the center of this scandal, Health Minister Kweku Agyemang Manu, is currently in court as the state’s principal witness in a case brought against the former Deputy Finance Minister, Hon. Ato Forson.

The crux of the case against Hon. Ato Forson is that, he was allegedly involved in the issuance of Letters of Credit for the supply of some ambulances in the past, which ambulances were duly supplied and delivered only to be abandoned by this Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government. In the instant case, friends from the media, under the watch of Kweku Agyemang Manu, it remains to be seen whether the said twenty-six (26) ambulances will arrive in Ghana at all. The future, they say, is pregnant.

5. Still on various losses occasioned the Ghanaian tax payer, the Auditor-General’s report uncovers how medical equipment valued at US$110,088.00 and GHS27,895.00 were issued to a private hospital in Madina which did not serve as a COVID-19 isolation centre and did not receive any COVID-19 patient. This is a clear case of misapplication of COVID-19 resources and highlights how COVID funds and equipment were shared wantonly like groundnuts to cronies of the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government instead of being used to protect lives.

6. In similar vein, the Auditor-General’s report reveals how medical equipment valued at US$247,404.79, which were procured and received at the Central Medical Stores and subsequently issued to some specific health facilities, did not reach the health facilities.

This ladies and gentlemen, to all intents and purposes was a create, loot and share arrangement in which officials of the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government created schemes and procured medical equipment for personal gain under the guise of fighting COVID-19 instead of saving lives.

7. The free-for-all abuse of COVID-19 funds as gleaned from the Auditor-General’s report took the form of various shady schemes. One of such underhand dealings was the case of over-invoicing by the the National Food Buffer Stock Company. The Auditor General found that between April 2020 and September, 2020, the company received three payments totaling GHS42,237,770.00, whereas waybills from various institutions which received these supplies amounted to only GHS40,831,685.00, thereby leading to over-invoicing of GHS1,406,085.00.

Regrettably, instead of exercising his power to surcharge and disallow those responsible, the Auditor-General feebly prefers to as it were “recommend” to the CEO of the National Food Buffer Stock Company to refund the excess amount paid to the company.

This, we find very objectionable from the report. We hereby serve notice to the CEO of the Buffer Stock Company to in his own interest refund the said funds immediately or consider himself a candidate for prosecution when power changes hands.

8. Friends from the media, one of the most bizarre findings of the Auditor-General had to do with cash payments by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection totaling GH11,999,444.00 to caterers who provided hot meals during the three-weeks of partial lockdown which were all retired with “honour certificates”.

It is quite obvious, even to the uninitiated, that the resort to honour certificates instead of hard evidence in the form of invoices and receipts to support these claims and payments, was an attempt to whitewash and cover up the inflated expenditure on hot meals by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government and has in fact, deprived the nation of value for money in the said transactions.

According to the Auditor General, his office could not authenticate the cash payments because they were supported with mere honor certificates and lacked internal checks resulting in the possibility of payments being made to persons who may not have provided any service.

Ladies and gentlemen, what is most shocking is a related finding by the Auditor-General, that there were no certification statements prepared for payments totaling GH¢5,638,684.00 out of the GH¢7,999,524 paid to caterers at the Headquarters of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. This is a clear case of broad daylight thievery which must not go unpunished.

9. Friends of the media, it also emerged that at the height of the pandemic when frontline health workers complained about the lack of adequate PPE, with some even losing their lives, senior management and supporting staff of the Ministry of Information were busy paying themselves a total amount of GHS151,000.00 as “COVID-19 risk allowance” without approval.

One may ask, what risk did these staff of the Ministry of Information led by the Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah face to warrant the sharing of such colossal amount of money among themselves as risk allowances without approval?

What is even more bizarre, is the finding by the Auditor-General that allowances totalling GH¢811,800.00 were paid to staff of the Information Ministry without adequate supporting documents. The Auditor General noted that apart from expenditure memos and signed sheets, there were no activity or program reports to support and authenticate the allowances paid.

It goes without saying, that the Minister of Information and his staff must immediately refund these unjustifiable payments to the state coffers or be held to account.

10. Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, the Auditor-General also found that COVID-19 related payments were made to various service providers totalling GHS543,058,709.00 outside of the Ghana Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), in clear violation of Regulation 61 of the Public Financial Management Regulations, 2019 (L.I 2378).

Clearly, these illegal payments were deliberately made by officers of the Finance Ministry in order to obviate the strict rigours and scrutiny of the GIFMIS system. There is no doubt about the fact that this illegal act of the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government has deprived the State of value for money as far as the said payments are concerned.

11. Quite strangely, ladies and gentlemen, the Auditor-General also found that contrary to Regulation 78 of the Public Financial Management Regulation (PFMR), the Ministry of Local Government made payments from COVID-19 funds totalling GH¢285,135.64 on ten (10) transactions not related to COVID-19 activities.

12. Again, the Auditor General found that between April 2020 and November 2020, the Ministry of Health made twenty-three (23) payments totalling GH¢4,520,661.84 to various suppliers for the supply of food items to the Pentecost Convention and Pantang Isolation Centres to cater for COVID-19 patients. Further scrutiny by the Auditor-General disclosed that out of the total payments made, GH¢3,755,202.58 were fully acquitted to substantiate the payments leaving a difference of GH¢765,459.26 unacquitted.

13. Friends from the media, the Auditor-General further noted that a company known as Modern Security Printers Limited was awarded a contract by government to print 929,550 pieces of educational A2 posters at the cost of GH¢4,368,885.00 and to conduct public education on COVID-19 safety protocols for students for GH¢1,456,310.00. Shockingly, the Auditor General did not find any report or evidence that supports the execution of the public education on COVID-19 safety protocols for students for which an amount of GH¢1,456,310.00 was paid. This unaccounted payment is a clear case of financial loss to the state which must be retrieved without delay.

14. Additionally, the Auditor-General found that contrary to the express provisions of the Public Procurement Law, the Ministry of Health, without the approval of the Central Tender Review Committee, increased the cost of five (5) contracts with total contract sum of GH¢24,256,500.00 by GH¢4,017,000.00 through variation orders.

Similarly, the Auditor-General established that the Ministry of Health entered into four contracts for the supply of PPEs at a cost of GH¢9,280,300.00 through single-source procurement without the approval of the Board of the Public Procurement Authority.

15. Ladies and gentlemen, the Auditor-General also noted that in line with update No.6 of the President’s address to the Nation of 9th April 2020, Non-governmental Organisations and individual private water sellers provided free water services to their clients and customers at the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies from April 2020 to December 2020 and submitted a total bill of GH¢37,609,791.71 for 2020.

However, a review of COVID-19 free water bills at the Community Water and Sanitation Agency by the Auditor-General disclosed that there were no actual water bills generated and submitted to the Agency by the NGOs and Private Individual Water providers to support their claims. The Auditor-General could not verify the bill and validate the dubious payment of GH¢37,609,791.71 by the Ministry of Finance to these NGOs.

CONCLUSION

Distinguished friends from the media while time will not permit us to discuss all the startling details contained in the report of the Auditor-General, the above disclosures are quite scandalising to say the least.

It is very clear that while COVID-19 may have been a national health disaster for Ghana, it was a bonanza and an avenue for officials of the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government and the New Patriotic Party to engage in the most obscene plundering of state resources never seen before in Ghana’s history.

You may recall, that at the height of the pandemic in 2020, an audio recording of one Madam Felicia Tetteh, a former MCE and Parliamentary Candidate of the NPP in the Sagnarigu Constituency in the Northern Region, emerged with grim details about how she as a Parliamentary Candidate was given GHS100,000 of COVID-19 funds, while another GHS200,000 was given to her Constituency Chairman.

By simple extrapolation and arithmetic, about GHS82,500,000 of COVID-19 funds were doled out to New Patriotic Party Parliamentary Candidates and Constituency Chairmen in all 275 Constituencies across the country. How could the New Patriotic Party and the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government be so wicked and heartless? Clearly, these are a group of people who have no love for country and have never been interested in protecting the citizenry but only came to power to steal, kill and destroy the country.

It is worthy of note, that these stinking revelations have come at a time of excruciating hardships for Ghanaians occasioned by high tax payments, hyperinflation of 54.1% and an ever-increasing rate of unemployment. As we speak, government has announced a total freeze on public sector employment while our secondary schools are battling with hunger due to shortage of food supplies from the Government. Our children don’t even have access to basic curricular-based text books almost four years after the introduction of a new curricular.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are all witnesses to how Government has sought to justify its mismanagement of the Ghanaian economy by citing COVID- 19 as the cause of our economic woes. Indeed, COVID-19 is the most favorite line in the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia book of lamentations for the unprecedented havoc they have caused to the Ghanaian economy. At the very least opportunity, spokespersons of this government consciously and shamelessly recite this excuse as the cause of the economic mess we presently have on our hands.

What the apologists of the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government have failed to tell the Ghanaian people is the fact that, COVID-19 brought the biggest financial windfall that have ever accrued to a sitting government in the history of Ghana. And that, our dear country would not have been plunged into the economic mess we presently find ourselves in, if these resources have been judiciously and prudently utilized by our duty-bearers.

Sadly, after squandering all these resources on some very unconscionable ventures under the guise of fighting COVID-19, these callous nation-wreckers in government have turned around to not only blame the pandemic which fattened their pockets, but are now seeking to expropriate the life savings and hard-earned monies of the Ghanaian people, in the name of Domestic Debt Exchange. 

We in the NDC have always maintained that the manner in which COVID-19 funds were expended by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government spelt doom for our economy. It is a fact beyond dispute that Ghana is now bankrupt and our economy has finally collapsed under the watch of President Akufo-Addo and his Vice, Alhaji Bawumia. Having run down our economy through reckless and inordinate borrowing, stealing, and outright abuse of public funds, the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government in a desperate move to clinch an IMF deal which appears to be their last gasp for breathe, has resorted to a Domestic Debt Exchange program which seeks to expropriate the live savings and hard earned monies of government creditors including Ghanaian citizens.

Friends from the media, in the face of this unpardonable and despicable raid on the public purse, there can be no justification whatsoever for the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government to attempt to indirectly impose a draconian debt exchange program on the Ghanaian people in order to clean a mess they and their cronies in government have created. It is therefore within the right of labour, trade unions, pensioners, individual bond holders, banks and other stakeholders to stand firmly against the brazen attempt to foist and impose unfavourable terms of a so-called domestic debt exchange program on them.

DEMANDS.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will not be surprised if the thieving Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government who have proven to be a grand monument of waste and corruption tries to coverup this corruption scandal as they have often done since they took office in the year 2017.

We wish to make it clear that we cannot and will not accept any situation where the Ghanaian people will be further punished and made to suffer for the willful mismanagement and destruction of our economy while the thieves in government who continue to milk the state coffers dry are left off the hook to enjoy their loot. We shall not sit aloof and watch the mother serpent of corruption, President Akufo-Addo and his Appearance-Fee-Collection Vice, Alhaji Bawumia whitewash this audit report and sweep it under the carpet as they have done in time past. Enough is enough!

Unlike President Akufo-Addo who has proven to be the Chief Corruption Clearing Agent, the whole world witnessed how the Malawian President, Lazarus Chakwera, cracked the whip on officials of his government who were found to have misused COVID-19 funds. The Malawian President is on record to have fired his Labour Minister, Ken Kandodo together with nineteen (19) other Officials. Friends, Kandodo's crime was that he used less than $800 of the COVID-19 fund on allowances for a trip to South Africa in the company of the President. This is what decisive leadership is all about, but alas, here in Ghana, officials of the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government receive promotion and patting at the back for engaging in acts of stealing of public funds.

1. The NDC calls on the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) to expedite its public hearings on this Special Audit Report into COVID-19 expenditures. This hearing should be televised live for the Ghanaian public to follow and be apprised of how their government expended COVID-19 funds.

2. We further urge Parliament to compel the Auditor-General to exercise his power of surcharge and disallowance to retrieve all COVID-19 funds that have been misapplied or misused through various infractions and veritable acts of criminality.

3. While at it, ladies and gentlemen, we call on the Special Prosecutor to investigate all Ministers and public officials who have been cited in the report for wrongdoing and bring them to book.

4. President Akufo-Addo must immediately fire the Minister of Finance, his Health Minister, Kweku Agyemang Menu, the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the CEO of the National Food Buffer Stock Company and all other officials who have been cited in the report for violating the laws of the country in their expenditure of COVID-19 funds.

We thank you for your kind attention.

Signed.

SAMMY GYAMFI ESQ.

National Communications Officer

Source: Classfmonline.com/cecil Mensah