The key suspect in the fire that consumed medical supplies at the Central Medical Stores (CMS) in 2015, has gone into hiding, impeding progress on prosecution.
The fire, possibly the worst in the country’s history, per investigations, occurred a day before a planned action to institute sanity into the Store’s management system following revelations of malpractices and irregularities there.
Medical supplies estimated to cost some GHS80 million at the time, were all destroyed in the fire that took almost three days to quench.
After a long wait for investigations into the incident, National Security was tasked to, among other things, identify the cause of the fire, establish whether or not there was foul play and if there was, determine the person or persons involved.
National Security discovered during its investigations that the fire was deliberately set, and one Samuel Dogbe, a labourer was named as the suspected arsonist.
Samuel Dogbe according to the report, set the fire to destroy evidence of theft and massive fraud and widespread misdeed in the procurement and distribution of medical supplies involving senior management and junior staff.
“Samuel Dogbe was paid to set the fire in order to destroy the evidence,” the report noted.
But shortly after these revelations were made, then Health Minister, Alex Segbefia disclosed at a press conference in Accra that the suspect was on the run and was being sought by security agencies.
A reason why until now, no prosecution has been made.
What else did the National Security investigations find?
The National Security report also indicated that the motive for the destruction of evidence was the fact that the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) had been tasked to investigate circumstances surrounding the expiration of large quantities of drugs and medical items at the Store.
A stock count of all medical consumables had also been slated for January 13, 2015, to be used for an exhaustive audit of supplies made to the CMS and allocations to health institutions in 2014.
In other words, the suspected irregularities and fraud in procurement and allocations to health institutions, and other malpractices which necessitated the planned investigations and audit, provided a motive for the sponsorship of the arson.
The investigations also revealed that managers of the Malaria Control Programme allegedly diverted large quantities of antimalarial drugs meant for public health institutions.
Also, systems software for recording stock levels of medical supplies and keeping track of allocations was manipulated, rendering it ineffective and facilitating massive diversion of medical items.
The investigation also discovered that large quantities of Artemether Lumefantrine, an anti-malarial drug, were stolen or diverted and sold to entities in Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.
Who else was indicted?
Samuel Dobge was the key perpetrator of the fire, but 12 other officers of the CMS were identified as being part of a network responsible for the systematic theft of large medical supplies and the irregularities in procurement and allocations to health institutions.
These persons are; former head of the CMS, Peter Ekow Gyimah; member of the Interim Management Committee of the CMS, Alhaji Yusif Inua; Acting Head of the CMS, Iddrisu Abdul-Karim and principal Pharmacist/ Warehouse Manager, Gifty Esi Mankartha.
The others are; Warehouse Manager, Zeboat Doh; Line warehouse Manager/ General Pharmacist Unit, Ibrahim Laryeah Amartey; Warehouse Manager, Kwame Foli and Warehouse Manager/ General Pharmaceuticals, Mathias Senaya.
The rest are; Senior Supply Officer/ Project Stores, Victoria Anning, one Abdul Karim; Pharmacist/System Analyst, James Benjamin Annan and Peter Atiba Addah, a storekeeper at the CMS.
What was done to these people?
Aside the mentioning of their names in public, these 12 persons have been interdicted until the determination of the case.
This will be done subject to the provisions of Human Resource Management Policy Framework and Manual for the Ghana Public Services.
Former Health Minister, Alex Segbefia
Earlier this year, Mr Segbefia, under whose tenure of office the incident occurred, charged President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to work at bringing a closure to the case by prosecuting the perpetrators.
He told Joy News’ Elton Brobbey that the then Attorney General, Marrietta Brew Appiah-Oppong did not have enough information to prosecute.
“We only have citings of the reports and not the statements by those involved, so as far as I am concerned the CID or National Security based on the evidence they have should proceed to give it to the Attorney General to mount a prosecution,” he said.
Has a new Store been built?
As of now, no, although the government has announced that an ultra modern facility will be built in its place.
This new building is expected to cost some GHS8 million.
The main Tema Sewerage system which runs underground the facility is expected to be re-diverted when actual reconstruction works begin.
But as of now, Joy News’ Elton Brobbey has been to the place and reports that the place is just as the fire left it.
Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu
What is being done currently?
The Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu has assured that there will be a forensic audit into the fire.
The Minister, who is a former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament revealed that some donor partners have been putting pressure on the government and are “threatening to withdraw some of the donations they give to us until some issues have been resolved.”
The US Ambassador to Ghana, Robert Jackson, has already publicly questioned the lack of action or prosecution on the matter of the arson.
He insisted the arson could not be swept under the carpet because the warehouse had about $7 million worth of items donated by American taxpayers.
Without any specific references, Mr. Agyeman-Manu said some of these donor partners “are pushing me to implement the report. They are talking about a forensic audit that should be done and that is what I am pushing myself to do.”
Apart from the forensic audit into the arson, the Health Ministry will also create a special desk to monitor “resource mobilisation and its monitoring deliverables in the sector,” the Health Minister said.
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