Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) businessman at the centre of a botched supply of 300,000 Sputnik V to Ghana, has refunded $2.47 million to the government.
The amount, which is the cedi equivalent of GH¢14.4 million, was paid into the Special Collection Forex Account of the Ministry of Health (MoH) at the Bank of Ghana (BoG).
The amount represents 50 per cent advance payment of $2.85 million the government made minus the cost of 20,000 doses ($380,000) supplied by the businessman.
The Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin, confirmed this to the Daily Graphic and provided evidence to prove the payment yesterday.
He showed a letter to the MoH confirming the refund. He also showed the SWIFT code and the payment advice to the Daily Graphic.
The letter, dated August 11, 2021, and title “Refund to the government of Ghana of the balance of payment for 300,000 doses of Sputnik V,” was addressed to the Chief Director of the MoH, Mr Kwabena Boadu Oku-Afari.
In the letter, Sheik Al Maktoum said regarding the refund of the balance of payment to the government for the supply of the vaccine, the requested amount of $2.47 million had already been refunded to the designated bank account as communicated.
“The SWIFT and the payment advice for the refund is hereby attached for your reference and record. We also confirm that no funds have ever been drawn under the Letters of Credit (LC),” it said.
The letter explained that the LC, which was a guarantee of payment the government issued pending the supply, had expired since June this year and was no longer a valid legal instrument issued in his (Al Maktoum’s) favour.
“Kindly issue us a payment receipt once the funds have been credited into the government bank account. We look forward to working on future endeavours with the ministry and your government to further enhance the bilateral relationship between our two brotherly countries,” the letter read.
The letter was copied to the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Attah, the Deputy Ministers of Health as well as the Head of Legal Affairs of the MoH.
Sheikh Maktoum, a member of the ruling royal family of Dubai, UAE, decided to refund the money after a request from the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu.
The supply of the vaccines being facilitated by the businessman hit a snag, leading to the termination of the agreement between the businessman and the MoH in July this year.
Efforts by the government to retrieve the money came on the heels of public outcry over the deal, which was the subject of a parliamentary probe.
After the probe, Parliament made a recommendation to the Ministry of Finance to take all measures to recover the $2.85 million (GH¢16.3 million) advance payment made to Sheikh Al Maktoum by the MoH.
Request for refund
On August 2, this year, Mr Agyeman-Manu wrote to Sheikh Al Maktoum requesting a refund of the amount paid for the doses which the businessman failed to supply to the country.
In a response, dated August 5, 2021 and addressed to the Minister of Health, Sheikh Al Maktoum agreed to the request and asked for the bank details for the effective transfer of the refund.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic on the refund, Mr Afenyo-Markin said the transfer of the amount to Ghana should bring finality to the matter as far as the ad hoc committee was concerned.
He said the committee, in its report, recommended that steps be taken to refund the money due the state.
“So, with the confirmation of this fund, having been paid back as a result of the loss of doses, the matter must come to a finality and we have to move on as a country,” he said.
Responding to concerns by critics that the Health Minister should be held accountable or dismissed for entering into contract with Sheik Al Maktoum without parliamentary approval, Mr Afenyo-Markin said those critics were arguing out of context.
The Deputy Majority Leader, who also chaired the ad hoc committee that probed the issue, said when Mr Agyeman-Manu appeared before the committee he was asked a specific question of whether or not at that material time he was aware of any payment made to which he responded “no.”
“The minister never said no payment has been made; he only said at that material time he could not confirm the payment,” Mr Afenyo-Markin said.
Transparent and candid
With the committee giving the minister the opportunity to go back to the Bank of Ghana to verify if any payment concerning the transaction had been made, Mr Afenyo-Markin said Mr Agyeman-Manu returned to the committee to give information regarding the payment.
“It is not us as committee who got to know that a payment had been made or a third party who brought us evidence of payment made.
“The same minister went to the Bank of Ghana and the Controller and Accountant-General and came back to us with a covering letter and attached the payment to confirm the exact amount paid.”
“He sent an email to Al Maktoum to confirm whether those payments had been received and he attached the email response to us and this should tell you how transparent and candid the man was,” the chairman of the ad hoc committee said.
Mr Afenyo-Markin, therefore, expressed worry over the manner in which the act of the minister had been twisted to create an impression that he lied and misled the ad hoc committee.
“So, why are people quoting the minister out of context and being unfair to the man?” he asked rhetorically.
Documents by Finance Ministry
Mr Afenyo-Markin, also the New Patriotic Party Member of Parliament for Effutu, explained that the Finance Ministry brought some documents — the Mid-year Review — to Parliament to highlight some money that had been released for the Sputnik V.
To ascertain the fact, he said the committee wrote to the Finance Ministry as a result of which the ministry responded with the same answer as contained in the mid-year review.
He said the committee again got back to the Minister of Finance to check with the BoG and the Controller and Accountant General as well as from Al Maktoum if any payment had been made, a request the Finance Minister did and responded to the committee via email, he said.
“The response from the Ministry of Finance has to do with releases, not payment. It is not any third party or entity that independently produced the evidence of payment. It is the minister himself,” Mr Afenyo-Markin said.