General News of 2014-04-09

NPP probes $306m Ridge Hospital scam

The Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) Caucus in Parliament has vowed to probe the ongoing US$306 million Ridge Hospital expansion project to ensure that “there is value for money” to the tax-payer.

They have, in effect, indicated their preparedness to file for a motion of rescission, which will compel Parliament to recall the commercial agreement of the project for further interrogation before approving it.

“This agreement cannot be allowed to stand. The nation is being short-changed and Parliament must rise up in unison to confront this apparent malfeasance,” noted the Minority Leader, Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu.

The NPP minority caucus made this observation in Accra yesterday, at a press conference to highlight their version of the “True State of The Nation.”

Parliament on April 1, 2014, approved the US$306million commercial agreement between the government and Messrs. Bouygues Bartiment International for the design, construction, procurement and installation of equipment for the rehabilitation of the Ridge Hospital in Accra.

The project is being financed with a Government of Ghana (GoG) mixed credit facility of US$250million from Exim Bank and the HSBC Bank, and will see the heath facility being expanded from the current 200 to 420 bed capacity. The project, which is already in progress, is expected to be completed in 2016.

However, the Minority said despite the good intention behind the hospital’s expansion project, managers of the Ghanaian economy had not been transparent about the real cost of the facility.

“We are told that the Hospital, when completed, will cost the nation US$6,757 per square metre, thereby making it the most expensive hospital in the world.

“Crown Agents, who were employed by the state to do due diligence has advised that the facility could be built at a cost of US$162 million, and yet we are having to do it at over US$305million? That we could make a minimum saving of about US$142million,” argued Hon. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu.

According to him, Crown Agents further advised that contract was likely to expose the Ministry of Health to an unacceptable level of risk, while also proposing that the price of US$350million “cannot offer value for money to the tax-payers of Ghana”.

What was more worrying, the Minority NPP noted, was the Ministry of Health’s stance to still enter negotiations with Bouygues Batiment International, despite the numerous advises from Crown Agents to tread cautiously.

In the said negotiations, the Ministry of Health, The Chronicle learnt, requested a ten percent discount of the contract sum amounting to US$30million when Crown Agents had stated a downward review of the contract sum by US$142million.

“The Ministry of Health in entering into the negotiation had proposed a review downwards by US$88.25 from the initial US$142million proposed by Crown Agents.

“At the end of the supposed negotiation, the Ministry agreed with the contractor to a six percent discount! That amounts to US$27million.

“Even that the contractor indicated that there would not be any refund but that it will be applied to additional works! Mr. President, that is the state of our nation!” the Minority asserted.

Notwithstanding the minority’s stance, the approval of the commercial agreement to expand the Ridge Hospital at a cost of US$306million has also incurred the wrath of some section of the general public as well as some civil society organisations.

Last Friday, the Executive Secretary of Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Vitus Adaboo Azeem, urged Parliament to as a matter of urgency take a second look at the contract sum for the Ridge Hospital expansion project if the approval process was false.

“I think that in the national interest this thing should be brought back for debate and the right thing done; we cannot afford to be allowing things like this to happen when we are already facing several difficulties,” he was quoted as saying by citifmonline.com

Source: The Chronicle
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