Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu

Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, has defended his failure to seek Parliamentary approval for a contract with Sheik Maktoum to procure Covid-19 vaccines.

Mr Agyemang Manu’s failure to seek Parliamentary approval is in breach of the provisions of Article 181(5) of the 1992 Constitution, which requires all international agreements to have Parliamentary approval.

Responding to questions at the sitting of a Parliamentary Committee probing the contract, Monday, Mr Kwaku Agyemang Manu said the infection and death rates compelled him to ignore laid down procedures in signing the contract for procuring the vaccines.

“I was in a desperate and helpless situation with the management of the covid numbers. In February [this year], we had 78 deaths; by March, we had 56 deaths, and these were the numbers that pushed me to act.

“…if you were the Health Minister, I think you might have taken certain decisions that in hindsight you may not have done those things. The country was not in normal times.

“…this was the environment I found myself in and out of desperation, frustration, and so many things,” he lamented. 

The Minister said he was desperate to get vaccines and was frustrated because regular vaccine supply sources had failed.

Government signed a contract for the purchase of 3.4 million doses of the vaccine after it received an initial 15,000 doses from Sheikh Al Maktoum on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

According to Mr Agyemang Manu, Sheikh Al Maktoum had brought the initial consignment to demonstrate the availability of the commodity once the deal is done.

However, the suppliers decided to withdraw from the contract after several attempts to get the vaccine from the manufacturers yielded no result.

Despite the total supply of 20,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccines to the country, the Health Minister said no money has been paid to the suppliers.

But he added that government will take necessary measures to settle the earlier 20,000 doses that the country received from the company.

Mr Agyemang Manu further added that the second contract with another intermediary firm, S. L. Global, is also under review.

According to him, despite the criticism surrounding the deal, he was motivated by the availability, pricing and efficacy of the vaccine at the time.