A corruption assessment report by the Community Development Alliance and the Commonwealth Foundation has indicted the Akufo Addo administration for blowing the more than US$ 2.1 billion (GHC 12.4 billion) meant for COVID-19 were blown on shady deals.
According to the group, the procurement processes for the acquisition of “Veronica Buckets”, Temperature guns, feeding programmes, face masks, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) among others were done in an opaque manner with little accountability.
The report is curiously titled “Strengthening COVID-19 Accounting Mechanism (SCAM)”
In it, even though the Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, for instance, has attempted to deny it, the report reveals that some US $1m contract awarded by the Akufo Addo administration to develop the controversial COVID-19 tracker app to two foreign companies namely iQuent Technologies and Ascend Digital Solutions “raises substantial corruption issues”.
According to the SCAM, Ascend Digital Solutions was registered just a month before the contract was award in Jersey, a tax haven and the contract sum appear bloated. “Same applies to the GH¢1.4m ($240,000) spent on the launch of the tracker,” the SCAM stated.
The SCAM report also revealed that some US $1.2million meant for the payment of 900 contact tracers employed by the Ghana Health Service to work on case detection, contact tracing and reporting, was fraught with underhand dealing that has left the amount mostly unaccounted for.
Among other findings include an amount of GHc2million allocated to transport frontline health workers during the partial lockdown in Accra missing GHc1,622,000.
It also sounded an alarm on a US$7.4 million allocated for community engagement that cannot be accounted for “It is unclear how $7.4m earmarked for community engagement and risk communication – from 1st release of $35m from the World Bank was spent. A National Information Contact Center (NICC) at the Accra Digital Center was set up to provide information on COVID-19 and related matters but unclear how much GoG spent on that set-up,” said the report.
“An amount of $12.7m was earmarked for containment, isolation and treatment – from 1st release of $35m from the World Bank. GoG spent $2,163million on 16 hotels and guest houses during the initial wave of arrivals. Even if GoG spent an additional $2million on all the other isolation centres during the initial wave of the pandemic, there appears to be an unspent fund of $8.6million within this allocation that needs further investigation,” the report read.
Also in the report, is an instance where monies to District Assemblies refused to be accounted for “…the Administrator of the District Common Fund, Irene Naa Torshie Lartey, in a letter dated April 9, 2020, released GH¢166,280.62 each to the 260 districts towards the pandemic fight, but no district has accounted to the people for how this release was spent,” the reported stated.
It went on further to outline how contracts for supplies for COVID-19 relief in Ghana were conducted under questionable procurement processes. “Contract for the supply of 18,000 Veronica Buckets; 800,000 pieces of 200-milliliter 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. It’s unclear who the suppliers were and how much was spent on this procurement,” the report read.
The government of Ghana had accessed the COVID-19 fund from sources such as the World Bank, the 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 SCAM report says the corruption assessment clusters around irregular procurement practices that violate Ghana procurement laws and corruption risks that indicates that there have been substantial breaches of anti-corruption laws, regulations, codes, and international conventions and best practices.