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31.07.2017 Feature Article

The Anatomy Of GHANA Medical Stores Fire: What Did We Learn From It?

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Perhaps the perpetrators thought no one would ever uncover their terrible act when they torched the Central Medical Stores in Tema, Ghana more than two years ago. But it looks like the chips have started falling.

So, who are behind the loot and the burn?
How did drugs worth more than US$11 million disappear in just 28 days?

Why did the Health Ministry purchase drugs worth US$80, when it knew the medicines were three months old expired prior to their procurement?

Also who diverted the 4million pounds worth of drugs from Tema Harbour to the storage facility?

And can the Akufo-Addo government recover the millions stolen by the lootees?

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The UN agency for health (WHO) had its medical supplies at the Central Medical Stores (CMS) of the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Tema, Ghana. The facility had several drugs worth millions of dollars that were meant to treat, Tuberculosis HIV/AIDS, Malaria including the deadly Ebola disease which had claimed thousands (more than 28,000 ) of lives in neighbouring Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. But the plot to financially destabilise the nation was pivoting elsewhere in the health ministry headquartered in the Ministries enclave in Accra.

In fact the decay at the sector is as sickening today as it was before, considering the magnitude of the plot, the frequency of the rot and the fire that consumed the drugs’ depot in January 2015.Evidently it brings back unpleasant memories and it makes it seem like the incident happened just yesterday. And without a doubt, the incident would remain a blot on the society.

Then sector minister of the erstwhile Mahama-administration Shirley Ayittey had sensed a worrying development and she feared it could cost the nation a fortune if not stopped. However, the plotters outfoxed Madam Ayittey as her efforts to halt the plot yielded no positive result.

Obviously, the master-minders were far advanced in their scheme and had one objective--- to wreak havoc on Ghana. The y would pillage her as though there was no tomorrow and later set the medical outlet on fire. So, blame it not on natural disaster or human error. It was thought-out. It was an inside job, this writer believes.

How did drugs worth more than US$11 million disappear in just 28 days including other several consignments?

Captain Smart a radio presenter and anti-graft crusader of Adom FM of the multi-media group who’s a dossier on the shady deal of the architects said this: “The arson at the Central Medical Stores was master-minded by government officials period.”

The report reveals the secret and modus operandi employed by staff of the ministry and its department s as well as agencies across Ghana, how they ‘diverted’ and ‘swapped’ consignments, from one destination to another.

According to the dossier in just 28 days drugs worth more than US$11 million had gone missing at the central medical stores in Tema. It further discloses, drugs that were supposed to go to places like Central, Ashanti or Eastern regions were diverted eerily, not to anywhere in Ghana but they found their way into the shores of our sister next-door, Togo. When the sector minister Shirley Ayittey found out that the consignments had been diverted she asked the staff in the regions to furnish her with all documents pertaining to the drugs. Strangely, the next day all the documents had been gutted by fire.

The news shocked many across the nation. Former US Ambassador to Ghana Robert Jackson whose government had given Ghana drugs worth US$7million lamented when he heard about the CMS fire: “This has dealt a blow to our ability to support public health in Ghana.”

Similar reaction came from former United Kingdom Ambassador John Benjamin. The outspoken diplomat said this “UK Parliament is worried over the central medical stores arson.” The UK government had also given Ghana $ 7 million pounds worth of drugs. It’s believed he‘d information that the drugs had been stolen. The dossier notes, when Mr. Benjamin decided to write a letter to the health minister to launch investigation into the criminal act, guess what happened. In less than 24 hours the facility caught fire.

The expose ‘which comes over two and half years after the violent fire gutted the CMS on January 13, 2015 also makes other startling findings The report suggests that MOH had even planned to cover up its shady deeds.

Who are behind the loot and the burn?

The dossier names Volta Impex Pvt Limited (Ghana) as one of the perpetrators of the rot that engulfed the Tema-based drug facility. And you won’t t believe this: Volta Impex was given GHc5 million to print prescriptions forms. It’s understood the actual cost price of the project was an estimated one million GHc. What happened to the 4 million cedis balance? They pocketed it without rendering any account. To whom shall we render account they might’ve remarked? Ironically when Volta Impex submitted the work or the prescription forms Ghana Medical Association (GMA) rejected the forms according to the report. The reason, the said printed forms were ‘deficient’.

But that wouldn’t stop them from carrying out their diabolical plot.

Question is: How did all the papers in Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eastern, Western and Greater Accra regions find their way back to the central Medical stores?

Interestingly ministry of health shielded the perpetrators, according to the report.

Captain Smart says the MD of Volta Impex Pvt must be held account. “He must answer how all the documents found their way back to the Central Medical Stores.”

Did the nation say enough is enough?
The UK government didn’t turn its back on us it further gave Ghana another 4 million pounds worth of drug following the diversion of the previous consignment. And from Tema Harbour to where the freight was designated to be stored, within six hours those drugs also were stolen.

Ghana government continued its profligacy—making more purchases and the crooks would also step up their game plan. Government would again purchase drugs valued at 24.99 million cedis. The following day it established the drugs had been expired for three months before they were purchased. Isn’t this absurd? Who does this and for what reasons?

But wait another 12.6million GH cedis worth of drugs were purchased and on January 8, 2015, logged in the log book. And expected the next day on January 9 the drugs were gone missing. Ghana would wake up on the 13th of January 2015 to the news that the whole facility had been burnt down.

On top of that, a whopping $ 80 million worth of drugs also went waste. Not only that…Malaria, TB Ebola, HIV/AIDS 263 million Ghana cedis. It was also established that all the drugs were expired two months before its arrival…”

Conspiracy theory
In the wake of the fire storm at least three conspiracy theories emerged. The first account was that the medical stores had burnt some pieces of paper in its incinerator. Then on Tuesday a day after, a staff member supposedly burnt another set of papers. At the time it was unclear as to which of the fires caught the numerous of boxes of expired drugs that were packed outside- awaiting clearance before their destruction.

And there was the third theory, which said that the several boxes of the expired drugs had been outside in the open and the severe Hamattan winds triggered excessive heat and therefore the likelihood of some of the drugs exploding and igniting the fire.

Well, we now that none of the conspiratorial notions regarding the fire storm hold water. And I personally believe it was premeditated. The plot was well choreographed by ‘government officials’ (as intimated by Captain Smart) to loot and burn.

The unavoidable question is:
Can the Akufo-Addo government recover the millions stolen by the lootees?

Indeed it’s a question that many Ghanaians are asking. Of course it’s their money and they want it back. But how would the administration do it such that it wouldn’t be characterised by the opposition NDC as witch-hunting. And I think the approach will be a key factor. Let’s not forget that the opposition also admits and agrees that there’s corruption in Ghana and it needs to be tackled head on.

Gordon Offin-Amaniampong
Gordon Offin-Amaniampong, © 2017

The author has 370 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: GordonOffinAmaniampong

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