Angry Americans Expose US$12.6 Million Drone Deal Brokers

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It has been established that, Ghana would have gotten free emergency medical response logistics, including two ambulances for each of the 10 regional hospitals, two medical supply helicopters and several drones, but opted to engage Zipline International for a US$12.6 million drone service, as a result of the selfish interest of some individuals in the Akufo-Addo government.

It was also established that, as far back as 2015, state officials at the Health Ministry and Ghana Health Service, including the then Director of Policy Planning and Evaluation, Dr. Afisah Zakariah, Festus Adams at Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Director of Public Health at Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Badu Sarkodie, played active parts for the arrival of the free equipment.

The state officials, made trips to the United States of America to interact with the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) to set up an emergency medical logistical hub in Ghana for free, but some elements within the Akufo-Addo administration upon assumption of office, changed the scope of the transaction to profit from.

Indeed, in a citation from the State of Michigan dated April 21, 2015 and given to the Ghanaian delegation led by Dr. Afisah Zakariah, the Americans pledged to reconstruct the Central Medical Stores facility in Tema which was gutted by fire some years ago, as a reflection of “a partnership between officials from Ghana, MAMA and the citizens of Michigan that reflects what is possible when people look beyond their borders and seek to assist those in need wherever they may be”.

Interestingly, the minister of Health, KwakuAgyeman Manu and his Deputy, Tina Mensah, are mentioned to have used their position to alter the programme and gotten the Director General of the GHS, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, to be pushing the deal. Other personalities, have also been traced to the Office of the Vice-President.

With the profit motive, Zipline International, which was mentioned as part of the discussions, clandestinely pulled out of the initial plan on the advice of some Ghanaians, set up Zipline Ghana and made appointments, including a certain Daniel Marfo, as its Head of System Integration, so as to have access to the free US$12.6 million Akufo-Addo government willing to doll out.

John Mahama’s last Health Minister, Alex Segbefia, is mentioned to The Herald, as having sanctioned the discussion, but it is not clear, why he has remained silent since the news about Ghana having to cough up US$12.6 million for something the country was going to get for free from the Americans.

Documents show that, MAMA, started this discussion when some countries in West Africa were devastated by an Ebola outbreak devastated in 2015.

Officials of MAMA led by Executive Director, Gavin Brown, who have also made trips to Ghana in furtherance of the deal, had also proposed reconstructing and replenishing the central medical store that was consumed by fire a few years ago.

The government had undertaken due diligence on MAMA through various agencies, including the National Security and had given a green light with an acceptance letter.

MAMA, had proceeded to secure support from some international agencies and organizations to provide funding for the massive MAMA emergency medical response project.

The Herald is in possession of documents and email correspondence between MAMA and Ghana from 2015 to 2018, where the process was almost concluded.

On May 13, 2015, the then Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah, had written an acceptance letter to the MAMA’s offer, and were in the process of receiving the logistic support when the NDC was kicked out of power.

MAMA continued its discussions with the new administration of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) well into 2018, when the arrangement was abruptly stopped and the Akufo-Addo-led administration decided to go on to rather pay US$ 12.6 million to Zipline for the supply of an exclusive drone service without the other ancillary services that the MAMA deal would have offered for free.

On December 20, 2018, Gavin Brown, the Executive Director of MAMA, wrote a letter to President Akufo-Addo to complain about how the deal was canceled.

This was after President Akufo-Addo was quizzed on the MAMA deal during his recent media encounter and was unable to give detailed response.

“I understand you were recently asked questions about the proposed MAMA-Help program. I am writing to provide clarification,” Gavin Brown wrote to President Akufo-Addo.

He narrated how the MAMA programme had reached advanced stage when, on January 31, 2018, the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman Manu wrote to “rescind the MAMA-Help inaugural luncheon scheduled for February 12, 2018”.

“Subsequently, we received information that a drone operation had signed a contract to provide similar services. We therefore consider the matter to be closed,” Mr Brown said, as he officially acknowledged the deal’s cancellation.

In April 2018, Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia, announced that the NPP government was going to deploy drones to deliver medical supplies.

The government eventually engaged US-based Zipline International in a controversial US$12.6 million deal that has received widespread criticism from the Ghanaian public.

Some have argued that infrastructure such as what MAMA had proposed was necessary before a drone service could be effectively deployed.

Former spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Tony Goodman, who also played some role on the MAMA programme, has also confirmed the ‘deal’ with the ministry and that the project wouldn’t have caused Ghana a dime.

He noted that, per the project, the country just had to allocate lands for the 10 regional emergency centers and other health facilities, and speaking to Kaakyire Ofori Ayim on Atinka AM Drive last Thursday, Tony Goodman, stated that a piece of land at Mankessin in the Central Region was allocated to the MoH for the sod-cutting in August 2016.

He added that the sod cutting ceremony was, however, postponed due to the impending election in 2016 with the insistence from the then Health Minister, Alex Segbefia, to do the sod-cutting after the 2016 elections.

Meanwhile, MAMA Humanitarian Emergency Logistics Programme (MAMA-HELP) has confirmed to the Presidency that it, as part of engagements with the Health Ministry, proposed to provide free medical facilities and medical equipment, including drones to the country at no cost but had their offer ‘rejected’.

This comes after questions were raised regarding a supposed request made by the Health Ministry in 2015 to the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association in the USA, for assistance to build 10 regional emergency medical clinics with ambulances, provide the country with two helicopters for medical supplies, together with drones for the supply of vaccines and samples to prevent the outbreak of Ebola and other infectious diseases.

President Akufo-Addo was quizzed by Accra-based Atinka TV’s Bismark Brown, during a meeting with pressmen at the Jubilee House, about the said proposal.

The journalist also sought to check the authenticity of facts as stated in a 2015 Ministry Health report prepared by Dr. Afisah Zachariah, then Director of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at the Health Ministry.

From his response, however, Mr. Akufo-Addo, appeared to be oblivious of the issues that were raised.

“I have a major problem in answering the first question, I’m not familiar with the document you read out, its contents, this is the first time I’m hearing it, I didn’t know such a large document had been evolved in the past government, I had no idea about any of the things you are saying and these people when they came to see me, did not refer to that at all”, he said.

Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman Manu, on his part claimed that the move was aborted, because members of the MAMA-HELP delegation were not credible.

A statement signed by Executive director of MAMA-HELP, Gavin Brown, however, noted how its plans to offer free medical facilities and medical equipment, including drones to Ghana never materialised.

“In a letter dated January 31, 2018 from the Honorable Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Minister for Health, he rescinded acceptance of the MAMA-HELP Inaugural Luncheon scheduled for February 12, 2018”

“Subsequently, we received information that a drone operation had signed a contract to provide similar services, we therefore considered the matter to be closed”, portions of the statement read.

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