For the umpteenth time, government officials have been caught red-handed profiteering from COVID-19, as they use the Ghana Airforce to pocket at least US$ 300,000 while evacuating stranded Ghanaians from West and Central Africa back to Ghana.
Accounts given to the Ghanaian Parliament on Thursday, July 22, 2021, by Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey shows that when each of the 506 Ghanaians evacuated from West African and Central African countries back to Ghana cost Ghana almost US$ 1,000.
They were evacuated by the state-funded Ghana Airforce.
Meanwhile, when private foreign airlines did the same evacuation from much farther countries like Lebanon, the UAE and China, it cost the Ghanaian government only an average of US$330 for each evacuee.
“It seems to me that foreign airlines were more empathetic to the plight of stranded Ghanaians than the aircraft managed by our own government,” noted Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Ranking Member of Parliament on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
In a post on his social media handle, Ablakwa also pointed out a potential GHC 21 million pocketed by officials of the Akufo Addo administration on quarantine expenses for Ghanaians from Lebanon.
“Strangely, whereas government says it spent GHS46,398,452 on Ghanaians from Lebanon at page 273 of the 2021 Budget, the Foreign Minister accounted for less than GHS25million of that amount in Parliament on Thursday. No one knows what happened to the over GHS21million missing as she couldn’t provide satisfactory answers to my supplementary questions despite her best efforts,” stated Okudzeto, who had forced the Foreign Minister to answer questions about the dubious expenditure.
“When you also consider that government claims to have spent a colossal GHS44,460,530 which in some cases translates to as much as GHS9,139 on the cost of quarantine for an individual, it becomes ever more imperative that a special forensic audit is commissioned on all COVID-19 related expenditure.”
According to the dubious accounts given by Ms. Ayorkor Botchwey, the Akufo Addo administration spent GHS 8,725,000.00 and USD 1,866,934.00 in repatriating Ghanaians in China and the United Arab Emirates respectively and others who became stranded in other countries across the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The expenditure involved quarantine and air tickets while an additional USD 475,895.00 was expended on evacuating those in West and Central African countries and a further GHS 44,460,530.00 spent to quarantine evacuees in eighty-five hotels spread across Accra, Prampram Bolgatanga, Takoradi and Kasoa.
In total, the government evacuated 10,025 stranded Ghanaians across the globe using KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Emirates Airlines as well as the Ghana Air Force Casa aircraft.
However, like every trail of COVID-19 expenditure of the Akufo Addo administration, possibilities of high corruption mar them.
Recently, the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman Manu admitted that he illegally awarded some US$ 66 million contract to a dubious UAE Sheikh to supply Ghana with Russia’s Sputnik V COVID vaccine.
Previously, contracts for expenditures such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hand sanitisers, disinfectants for public places, hand washing stations, etc, have all been dogged by corruption.
The highlight of this corrupt trend in Ghana’s COVID-19 contracts is the one awarded to Frontier Health Services to test all inbound travellers at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).
The private company linked to cronies of President Akufo Addo are charging a staggering US$ 150 to test each arriving passenger, but the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL) and the Noguchi Medical Research Centre whose resources are used for the testing and collectively taking home less than US$ 15 per passenger, while Frontier pockets the lion’s share.
The contract to Frontier is fraught with influence peddling and cronyism in what has left critics no doubt to finger the Akufo Addo administration of corruption.