56 ambulances bought by the previous government at a cost of 80,000 EUR or $93,000 each have been abandoned at the Air Force Base in Accra and social media users can’t believe their eyes as it emerged, per a MyNewsGh.com report, how now late former Vice president Amissah Arthur was ferried to 37 Military Hospital in a pick up truck’s bucket when there was no ambulance response.
we have learnt that the John Mahama National Democratic Congress (NDC) government procured the ambulances estimated at about 5.5m dollars and all the vehicles are said to be lying idle because they are not fit for the purpose for which they were acquired as the National Ambulance service said using those cars would rather cause harm to patients who use it.
The Mahama ambulances, we learnt, were imported like ‘Trotro’ which had ambulance gear forcefully fixed inside.
We uncovered that the erstwhile Mahama government under its Health Ministry procured the ambulances without any consideration for the medical needs and emergency needs of the Ghana Ambulance Service and without the involvement of any key stakeholders.
The Ambulance service expose ‘procurement’ flaws
Chief Executive Officer of the National Ambulance Service, Prof. Ahmed Zakariah, explaining why the service rejected the ambulances, said an ideal ambulance, right from beginning, is designed with the needed equipment factored into its manufacturing, but with the rejected ambulances, they had already been manufactured and improvised with equipment to look like ambulances.
“The fitting inside will fall with time and cause harm to patients,” he observed.
He disclosed that the ambulance service was left out during the procurement process.
Prof. Zakariah said normally, the service conducts three different inspections of the ambulances – twice during the manufacturing and once before they are shipped into the country – but that was not done during the last procurement process.
“But with these, we were not part of the inspections; we only did post-delivery inspection and that was when we discovered the anomaly,” he said.
Alex Segbefia reacts
Earlier last year when the issue came up and MyNewsGh.com reported on it, the current minister of Health said the ministry had referred the matter to the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) for further investigations.
Immediate-past Health Minister under the Mahama administration Mr. Alex Segbefia granted media interviews distancing himself from the transaction.
He said it was not done under his tenure.
“No contract was signed under my tenure. People keep forgetting that I was the minister for 18 months and there were seven ministers over an eight-year period so no contract or no financial arrangement was done under my tenure as minister,” MyNewsGH.com quoted him at the time.
“I have no problem with any investigative body investigating what has occurred with regards to any matter under the Ministry of Health either before or during the tenure under which I am, and if I have to assist, I am willing to assist anyone who is part of the investigative team or the investigative body, so that is not a major concern to me,” he had said.
“I welcome the investigations that the minister wants to embark upon, but while the investigations are ongoing, it is also important to see how quickly we can get the equipment out of the port. Let’s kick out the ambulances and let’s deal with what has gone wrong. Let it not be like a situation with the gallopers which were left for years to rust.”
But Mr Segbefia was being economical with the facts.
A quick check of the records showed Mr Segbefia as the Health Minister was the person who rejected the first consignment of 30 ambulances out of the 56, which arrived in 2016 when he was a health minister, saying at the time that “they were substandard”.
Current Health Minister
Mr. Agyemang-Manu, current Health Minister had also revealed that it was only during the course of the transition that they uncovered the ‘fraudulent Mahama ambulances’ which were indeed supplied but the ministry (under NDC) did not accept them because of the specification shortcomings, even though they were allegedly paid for by the same NDC government.
However, inspections carried out by NAS after delivery of the vehicles showed that 30 did not meet the standard and were therefore rejected by the government, which meant that until they were replaced, they would not be paid for.