Drama at PAC : GHS in the eye of the storm
Drama unfolded at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) sitting yesterday when the Transport Manager of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Mr Ebo Hammond, who was supposed to answer a question regarding a contract, disappeared from the sitting because of what was said to be a 'stomach upset'.
Mr Hammond's colleagues told the PAC through the Minister of Health, Mr Alex Segbefia, that he had stepped out because of stomach upset.
That was when the Director-General of the GHS, Dr Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira, had requested him to step forward to answer questions relating to the vehicle hire purchase contract, which the 2011 Auditor-General's report cited as contravening the Public Procurement Act.
Dr Appiah-Denkyira had told the PAC that he did not understand how the contract was awarded, and that the transport manager of the GHS was in a better position to answer questions with respect to the contract.
The 2011 Auditor-General's report noted that 332 Great Wall pickup vehicles valued at GHc10,458,000 were procured under hire purchase agreement with Auto-World without adherence to the provisions and regulations of the Public Procurement Act.
The report recommended that the Director-General of the GHS should investigate the non-compliance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act in the selection of the supplier.
For instance, it said there was no evidence of invitation for proposals outlining the evaluation criteria to shortlist car dealers.
'We further requested management to enforce appropriate sanctions as enshrined in article 92 of the Public Procurement Act, 2003,' the report said.
Health minister pleads for Mr Hammond
After some minutes of waiting, members of the PAC expressed dissatisfaction at Mr Hammond's decision to go out of the sitting without properly informing his superiors.
The Chairman of the PAC, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, said the procurement infraction bordered on criminality.
He, therefore, recommended that the Minister of Health report the matter to the police immediately to arrest those involved.
Thereafter, he said the Attorney-General's Department should take the case to court 'so that the court can give a ruling'.
But the Minister of Health pleaded with the PAC to rescind that decision till they heard an explanation from the transport manager as to why he had to leave unceremoniously.
He said since the GHS was scheduled to continue its appearance before the PAC today, the transport manager should be given the chance to respond to the PAC's questions on the contract.
Consequently, the PAC rescinded its decision and Mr Agyeman Manu said Mr Hammond would be required to appear before the PAC today.
Mr Hammond's reappearance
Just before the sitting ended, Mr Hammond showed up in his white 'Fugu'.
Mr Segbefia told the PAC that although Mr Hammond was not well, he had managed to come back because some radio stations had reported that he had run away from the sitting.
Upon a request by Mr Segbefia, the PAC gave Mr Hammond the opportunity to announce his presence.
When he took the microphone, he simply said 'I am here'.
PAC to invite IGP
Meanwhile, the PAC said it would invite the Inspector-General of Police, Mr John Kudalor, to a meeting to bring to his notice the conduct of his officers regarding the implementation of the Auditor-General's reports.
The PAC's decision was occasioned by revelations by officials of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) that the police were dragging their feet in prosecuting cases of embezzlements and misappropriation of funds on behalf of the GHS.
Other revelations by the GHS officials were that the Attorney-General's (Ag's) Department also did not treat the cases from the Auditor-General's reports with urgency, while cases taken to court remained pending for too long.
Consequently, Mr Agyeman Manu said in addition to the IGP, the judicial secretary and officials from the A-G's Department would also be invited to the meeting to establish why the cases remained pending for a long time in court.
The 2011 Auditor-General report revealed that the GHS had engaged in financial transactions not supported with documentation.
Not happy with that revelation, Mr Agyeman Manu said the GHS would be excused but indicated with what been seen in from the 2014 Auditor-General's report, the PAC would not entertain any financial transaction not supported by any documentation.
He said such unsubstantiated financial transactions opened the opportunity for officers to withdraw monies for their personal use without any trace.