Resolve Global Fund donation impasse to avert health calamity

 On page 9 of our yes­terday issue is a story in which the Coalition of CSO Networks in HIV, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria is calling on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to assist in the clearing of locked-up Global Fund-donated health care items at Tema Port, valued at over US$40 million.

These items said to include Antiretroviral (ARV), TB medica­tions and Malaria treatments have been locked up since May, 2023.

The Global Fund invests more than US$5 billion a year to fight HIV, TB and malaria and has been a crucial supporter of Ghana’s health initiatives, contributing over US$1.2 billion since 2002.

It is said that despite the Fund’s consistent aid, the government is demanding exorbitant taxes and port charges for clearing the donated commodities, contrary to the Framework Agreement exempting such charges.

What is more worrying is that efforts by a 12-member Global Fund delegation in March 2024, failed to resolve the impasse, leading to the suspension of all future commodity shipments until the current issue is resolved.

What had been the arrange­ment since 2002, when the Fund started supporting the country?

Now that this issue has come up, it will do the government good if it makes its relevant representatives explain matters to the public.

This is important and must be done at the earliest, otherwise those who lack understanding of such matters would conclude that the government is just being callous, particularly because the Coalition says the lock-up has caused shortage of drugs for treating HIV, TB and malaria as a result of which patients are suffering needless deaths.

How much is the duties and port charges accruing from the donations from the Global Fund, a non-profit organisation that cannot be waived when the gov­ernment can grant tax holidays and other waivers to commercial entities?

The United States (US), described as the Global Fund’s largest donor, says its support for the Global Fund is a strategic investment in the millions of people whose lives have been saved through Global Fund-sup­ported programmes.

Ghana should think health first and adopt the US attitude so that even losing revenue for the sake of the citizenry would not matter at all.

Meanwhile, it is not strange for Ghana to grant tax exemption to the Global Fund.

It is on record that a tax waiver was granted to AngloGold Ashanti on December 22, 2010, for its malaria services and sub­sequently, the Global Fund Board secured exceptional approval of extensions of the programme till end of 2015.

Why can such exemption not be granted to the Coalition of CSO Networks this time around?

Even there is a general prin­ciple that for each programme, the purchase and or import of any goods or services using the grant funds shall be exempt from relevant taxation applicable in the host country, including but not limited to customs duties, import duties, taxes or fiscal charges of equal effect levied or otherwise imposed on the health products imported into the host country under the Grant Agreement.

Even where certain taxes are paid, refunds must be made to the Global Fund.

The government must think of the more than 250,000 individuals living with HIV and depend on Global Fund-sponsored ARVs; the expiration of some of the drugs; and the impending loss of Global Fund support and ur­gently do something to avert any looming health calamity.

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