Drama unfolded at the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) hearing yesterday, when the Transport Manager of the Ministry of Health was dragged before the committee to explain irregularities in the procurement of vehicles for the ministry.
The manager, Mr. Ebo Hammond, who was part of the team which attended the sitting with the minister, Mr. Alex Segbefia, was in the vicinity before sitting commenced but vanished mysteriously when he was called to respond to the allegations.
However, before the Chairman of the PAC, Mr. Kwaku Agyeman Manu, could call for his arrest, Mr. Segbefia came to his rescue, and explained that the Transport Manager had suddenly developed stomach upset and had rushed to the gents.
“The transport officer was here. He was seen. We heard on the grapevine that he said he had a stomach problem and so he has gone out, whether to the loo or he has left, it is not clear,” he said and pleaded with the committee not to call for his arrest, but to give him some time to come and clarify the issues.
“Let us first of all determine what is happening with him before, Mr. Chairman, you go on with your recommendation. So I beg your indulgence, Mr. Chairman, I beg you to give him more time to make himself available,” Mr. Segbefia said.
The transport department of the ministry is alleged to have failed to comply with the procurement Act in the selection of a car dealer for a vehicle high purchase scheme, which involved an amount of GH¢10.4 million.
The department is said to have also engaged in a sole sourcing arrangement without prior approval of the Public Procurement Authority.
The matter, according to Dr. Appiah Denkyirah, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, had been referred to the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) for further investigations.
The PAC chairman, considered the minister’s plea and suspended the probe into the matter, until Mr. Hammond was given the opportunity to offer some explanation.
After close to two hours, Mr. Hammond appeared before the committee and claimed that his name was all over the radio that he had escaped from the committee.
He said he was not feeling well and therefore decided to excuse himself but later heard his name on the news that he had escaped.
The Deputy Chairman of the committee, Samuel Atta Akyea, took a swipe at him, for taking a French leave when he was supposed to be behind the minister to respond to queries from the committee.
“If the whole minister is here and you are having some tummy problems, you should tell the minister that you are not well so that the minister can offer better explanations,” he said.
The allegations against him, which was captured in the Auditor- General’s 2011 report on Ministries, Department and Agencies, was postponed to today to enable him throw light on the issue.
The committee further delved into issues involving the procurement of 35 new vehicles for doctors through a vehicle loan scheme.
According to the Attorney-General’s report, an amount of GH¢373 million had not been retrieved from the loan applicants. Interestingly, it said the ministry had applied for parliamentary approval to write off the loans.
Mr. Segbefia said some of the beneficiaries were dead while others, who were currently on retirement, were not interested in paying for the loan.
He said it would cost the ministry so much money to retrieve the money and that it would not be cost effective to go after the vehicles.
“Mr. Chairman, it will take good money to chase bad money,” he said and appealed to the committee to support the appeal by the ministry to seek parliamentary approval to write off the loan.
The vehicles, he said, were to be an incentive for the doctors to stay with the Ghana Health Service and added that “when it was time for them to pay the money, they simply said we should come and take back our cars”.
By Yaw Kyei