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Opinions Wed, 11 Aug 2021

Kwaku Agyeman-Manu acted in good faith

The deadly coronavirus which presented itself as a global pandemic threw the good people of Ghana into despair when the Minister of Health announced to the general public the presence of the virus in Ghana. I do not think that the good people of Ghana would ever in their lives forget the quagmire that visited them in their homes the very night the said announcement was made during a press briefing.

It is important to point out that, many people including myself never thought the virus could be managed so well on our soil owning to numerous reports of the devastating nature of the disease. What actually took our hopes away was the fact that even those countries we held in high esteem when it comes to how improvement in their health care delivery were actually the very people the virus maimed. There were also reports that African countries were going to be the most affected because of our inefficient health care system.

It came to a point that, people were only looking up to scientists to get us a vaccine. A lot of countries in the world committed resources to the fight against the deadly disease. One of such was the procurement of PPEs and others coupled with enforcement of COVID-19 protocols as a means to stabilize the spread of the disease for some time. All these were done in accordance with directives from the World Health Organization.

In fact not until we heard the news that a vaccine had been found, many people thought coronavirus was a photocopy of HIV/AIDS in view of its incurable nature as we were made to believe. The situation we had at the time was a desperate situation which required a desperate measure for containment.

It must also be noted that most of the countries were patiently waiting to get signals to rush to the market to procure vaccines for their people. The signs were so clear that, demands were going to far exceed supply obviously because the manufacturers of the vaccine even with the speed of light were not going to produce vaccines to feed a population of about 1.2 billion of the world populace at a go.

In all these, one thing we must not forget is that all those who devoted themselves to help us manage the pandemic including the health Minister were also not spared. They all had their share of the effects of the virus.

When the Republic of Ghana managed to get a vaccine in the midst of serious competitive market forces, all lost hopes were redeemed. The short ceremony which was held at the premises of Kotoka International Airport when the vaccines arrived in Ghana brought joy to us as a people. The President through his posture was prepared to even spend "Ghana's last coin" to get us vaccines to save lives.

Like a good father, no matter how it will cost his purse to protect his kids and to the extent that, the satisfaction of the cost will save the lives of his kids, hesitating to do so because of the fear of cost would never be his position even if same would cost him his last coin, such a father will be prepared with alacrity to even spend more in order to save lives. This was the bold decision President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his Health Minister took at the time COVID-19 decided to act like a " jetliner".

In recent times, the Minister has come under fire particularly in respect of how the life-saving vaccines were procured. Some say he should resign because of statutory and constitutional violations in the procurement of vaccines.

What we must understand is that these statutes are made for man and not man for the statutes. This position of the law underscores the fact that laws are made specifically for the supreme benefit of mankind. It is also instructive to note further that, the very statutory violation aside from the breach of Article 181(5) of the constitution of Ghana is the Public Procurement Act,2003(Act 663) as amended.

The Public Procurement Act actually allows room for flexibility in terms of its applicability during an emergency situation. The said flexibility allows circumvention of certain provisions of the Act during a difficult situation in so far as its adherence is concerned.

As a matter of law, the law itself provides a cure after circumvention which comes in the form of ratification from PPA after the event. Are people saying that, covid19 is not one of the situations? I have perused the report of the committee that investigated the procurement of the vaccine. In fact, as part of their recommendations, the committee directed the Minister to seek ratification from PPA.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me state that any violation of the law which does not occasion any substantial hardship to the state cannot be said to fatal and that is actually the reason why, in such a situation, the cure is provided in the form of ratification.

The question therefore is, did these breaches of the law occasion any substantial hardship to the state for which reason people are demanding his resignation? It is gainsaying the fact that a sincere contractual agreement is which provides room for refund in case a party fails to honour his or her part of the obligations.

As a speaker, the Sheikh who could not fulfill his part of the obligation has written to the Minister of Health Kwaku Agyeman-Manu indicating his preparedness to refund monies paid to him in advance. Is this not enough confirmation that the Minister had no ill intent when the urgent nature of the situation forced him to sidestep processes which are now being used against him?

In Margret Banful &, Another v Attorney General, the Supreme Court held that the decision to bring the Guantanamo Bay detainees ought to have been in accordance with Article 75(1)(2) of the constitution of Ghana and since same was not done, it amounted to a breach of the constitution of Ghana.

The above decision of the apex court tells us that, not all violations are fatal and for that matter, the ones which are not can be cured legally.

Though the court ruled that, it constituted a clear violation of the law, the court as part of their consequential orders gave the government the opportunity to make amends by means of ratification as the sole means to cure the violation. So why can't we give the Hon. Minister of Health the same opportunity to right the wrongs by going back to Parliament as it was done in the Guantanamo Bay detainees case?

How best we have managed covid19 must be the reason why the Health Minister in spite of all the accusations must be given another chance to correct these harmless mistakes.
Columnist: Dawda Eric