Former Minister of Health, Alban Bagbin, has rejected claims that he signed a contract for the procurement of ambulances that were unfit for purpose.
“It is not true”, the Nadowli-Kaleo MP stated emphatically on Class91.3FM’s Executive Breakfast Show on Thursday, 26 July.
The Health Ministry, under the Mahama administration, awarded a €2.4 million contract to a company to supply ambulances to the country. Out of some 200 ambulances earmarked for procurement, 30 supplied were found to be unfit for purpose.
Mr Simon Kewura, Public Relations Officer of the National Ambulance Service, told Moro Awudu on Class91.3FM’s Executive Breakfast Show on Tuesday, 3 June, that the sub-standard ambulances are to be converted into minibuses and used for public transport.
“The then-NDC administration was supposed to procure 200 new ambulances for us [National Ambulance Service] and out of it, 30 of them arrived in batches but after we inspected them, we realised that they didn’t meet our standards as a service and as a country because the ambulances that we are using are supposed to have some basic life-support gadgets or instruments on board, but looking at the 30 that we had, this part of the 200 doesn’t meet the requirement at all.
“So, as an institution, we said: ‘No, we are going to use these ambulances to save lives, so, if they cannot save lives, then they are not ambulances, so, we decided to say no to those ambulances,” he said.
However, responding to the issue on the same platform on Thursday, 26 July 2018, Mr Bagbin, who is now the Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, explained that the ambulances “are fit for purpose” contrary to the claims by the Ambulance Service.
The flag bearer-hopeful of the main opposition NDC said it was “sad” that the current administration wants to use the vehicles for public transport.
“These are Benz buses that were organised from the Benz Company. The only problem why government will not do it direct was that government did not have the money to pay for it, and, so, a company from Dubai had a word with us to pay for government and then to receive part-payment and the payment was staggered”.
According to him, the agreement he signed was “drafted” and “finalised by the Ministry of Justice, there is nothing wrong with that agreement”.
He said he was not given the opportunity to implement the programme because he was re-assigned to another institution.
“It was during the course of the implementation that there were some delays, some time lapsed, some lack of inspection, because a technical team was to leave Ghana, go and inspect the ambulances to make sure they were within the specifications [including the gadgets and equipment] but the team did not go to inspect, and, so, the company decided to bring in the ambulances and to ship the equipment and machines to fit them in Ghana under the supervision of the technical team. The ambulances came first, the equipment came later in November 2016. As of today, they are still at the port in Tema. The ambulances were parked at the forecourt of the State House. After the  elections, they were moved away. It was not only the ambulances, there were buses and a lot of cars parked there, the previous regime has brought them in [but] the NPP moved them away to places we don’t know. They delayed for over a year, what will be the state of those buses? Now you are playing politics with it? And you want to sacrifice me for 26 years of service to my nation?” he questioned.
Mr Bagbin disclosed that he has submitted a written statement on the matter to the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) and “I have given them details and documents to support it”, adding: “There was nothing that I did wrong”.
He stressed that it was the policy of government at that time to ensure that “every metropolis had not less than five ambulances available for use and that is why we established the National Ambulance Service”.
He said the Ghana National Fire Service was used as a training institute and “every year, the paramedics were trained, including the drivers [of the ambulances]”.
He noted that: “Every municipality was to get not less than three ambulances and every district, not less than two ambulances, and, so, we started the implementation, we distributed 161 new ambulances, they were VW ambulances and we had submissions for Benz and then also Fiat. The Benz was what I worked on… It was not a political decision, no! It was a national decision”.
For him, the politics that the current government is playing with the issue was saddening.