While governments strive to tackle Covid-19 pandemic and revive their economies from its ravages, concerns about possible misuse of covid-19 funds continue to grow in Africa.
This is according to the COVID Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP).
A research conducted in seven African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Sierra Leon, Kenya, Cameroon, Liberia), by CTAP showed a lack of transparency and accountability for COVID-related expenditure.
“While most countries signed up to processes such as open contracting and beneficial ownership in accessing the funds, there has not been full compliance as seen in the obvious gaps,” the CTAP report said
The Government of Ghana has since the emergence of the health crisis drawn billions of dollars in credit and grant schemes from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Bank of Ghana among other development partners.
While audit processes might be required to ascertain abuse of resources, the lack of publicly available procurement details and delays in accounting for the funds leave room for misconceptions and erode confidence in public expenditure management.
“Given that emergency procurement regimes were globally adopted to urgently save lives, the disbursement process was exposed to greater potential for fraud, mismanagement and general inefficiencies than usual,” the report said.
CTAP found that commitments under the IMF’s Rapid Financial Loan Instrument to publish procurement plans, notices, and awards related to the emergency response were largely not complied with across the seven countries monitored.
Out of the many government contracts awarded during the pandemic, details about a handful can be seen on the e-procurement platform created to facilitate public procurement processes and reduce human interface which breeds corruption.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, only few contracts were published on the portal, other public contracts during the period were not published,” the research found.
“Generally, some of the names for companies awarded other contracts for COVID-19 did indeed come into the public domain, but not as a result of their publishing in the National Gazette by Ghana’s Ministry of Finance as is required for procurement of items which are for the national interest; some of the companies awarded were identified through the work of journalists and CSOs, with most of them not included in the list of companies vetted by the Procurement Authority,” it added.
CTAP however, hailed the government for adopting electronic platforms in the application and disbursement of the GH¢600 million CAP-BuSS support scheme to Small and Medium-size Enterprises.
Summary from the seven countries.
According to the report, the focus African countries faced challenges adhering to high accountability standards “even amidst evidence of corruption and undue profiteering from the pandemic.”
“A common thread runs through the countries: far-reaching transparency and accountability reforms are required, especially in an emergency period such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report recommended.
The COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP) is a Pan-African project launched in the wake of COVID-19 to track public expenditure and governments response in African countries, with the aim to deepen transparency and accountability.
The project is a collaboration with BudgIT Foundation and Connected Development (CODE), two prominent civic-tech non-governmental organizations spearheading advocacy for openness, transparency and accountability in public finance in Africa.
COVID-19: Italy to scrap quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers from UK
From 31 August, double-jabbed visitors from the UK can show a negative COVID test to avoid hotel quarantine.
Travellers from the UK will no longer have to quarantine when they arrive in Italy if they are fully vaccinated and can show a negative COVID test.
Italy’s health ministry said the five-day mandatory quarantine will be scrapped from 31 August.
The negative PCR or antigen coronavirus test must have been taken 48 hours before arriving in Italy – and it must have been at least 14 days since the second vaccine dose was administered.
Existing restrictions for visitors from other countries will remain in place.
The country had introduced the restrictions on 21 June amid growing concerns over the Delta variant‘s prevalence in the UK.Advertisement
Until 30 August, anyone who has been in the UK in the previous 14 days has to show a negative test to enter the country, self-isolate for five days, and then take another negative test to be released from quarantine.
Italy is on the amber list for all four nations in the UK.
This means that fully inoculated travellers coming back to the UK from Italy also need to show a negative test that was taken up to three days before travelling.
Data released by Italian health officials on 20 July showed that the Delta variant accounted for 94.8% of coronavirus cases in the country.
In the UK, the figure is over 98%.
Polish Olympian auctions medal to pay for a baby’s heart surgery
An Olympic silver medalist from Poland put her medal up for auction to help pay for an 8-month-old baby’s heart surgery, but the winning bidder turned the tables and let her keep it.Javelin thrower Maria Andrejczyk won one of her country’s 14 medals in Tokyo, and she was determined to help a stranger in some way, according to her Facebook page.
Andrejczyk, 25, discovered a fundraiser for little Miloszek Malysa, who suffers from a rare heart condition and will need surgery to survive. She decided to auction the medal and donate the money to Miloszek’s family.
Polish convenience store chain Zabka Polska ponied up 125,000 dollars as the winning bid, and then said in a Facebook post that it would let Andrejczyk keep the medal.
The fundraiser for Miloszek on a Polish GoFundMe-type site was more than 90-per-cent complete as of Tuesday night.
Andrejczyk finished fourth in the javelin competition at the Rio 2016 Olympics. In 2018, she was diagnosed with cancer, but battled back to win silver in Tokyo.
Expanding healthcare with Agenda 111 excellent – Anyidoho
A former Deputy General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Koku Anyidoho has said any effort to expand access to healthcare in Ghana should be embraced by all Ghanaians.
Commenting on the Agenda 111 project commissioned by President Akufo-Addo on Tuesday August 17 which will lead to the construction of 111 hospitals across the country, Mr Anyidoho who is also the Director of the Atta Mills Memorial Institute said in a tweet that “Expanding access to quality healthcare must be embraced. Under the Atta-Mills Better Ghana Agenda, we got a new University of Health & Allied Sciences to give us solid manpower. The new UG hospital was also built. We are getting additional 111 hospitals? God bless our Homeland.”
President Akufo-Addo said the Agenda 111 project will be providing 20,000 jobs for health professionals when completed.
He said the Ministry of Health is going to recruit more doctors, nurses and pharmacists when the project is done.
He also said that more indirect jobs are also going to be created by the project implementation.
The president further indicated that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed years of under investment in Ghana’s health sector.
To that end, he said his administration is improving on the investment in the health sector of the economy.
He said “I am glad that the biggest ever investment in the nation’s healthcare is being made. We have met this morning because of the ravages of Covid-19 which has affected every country on the planet. For us in Ghana, not only has the pandemic disrupted our daily lives, but it has also exposed the deficiencies with our healthcare system because of the years of under investment and neglect.”
Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu said during the event that the surest way for the government to improve on the healthcare delivery of the people is to provide infrastructure, To that end, he said the government is committed to providing the needed health infrastructure.
He said “As you know, a healthy people guarantee a healthy nation and government being mindful of this fact has proved to show to the people its commitment to improve the health status of all residents in the country.
“The surest way to improve healthcare sis through providing new infrastructure or improving just existing ones across the length and breadth of the country.”
On Sunday August 15, Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah revealed that an amount of $100million has been budgeted for the Agenda 111 project to provide 88 hospitals across the country.
He announced that the government has secure 88 sites as part of the move to construct new hospitals, adding that the titles to the parcel of lands have also been secure.
Addressing a press conference in Accra on Sunday August 15, Mr Oppong Nkrumah who is also Member of Parliament of Ofoase Ayirebi said “The agenda 111 project which aims at providing 111 district hospitals will commence on Tuesday 17 August 2021. The project will also see to the provision of two specialized hospitals, one for the middle belt, one for the northern belt. These are psychiatric hospitals and then the redevelopment of the Accra Psychiatric hospital.
“There will also be the development of the six new regional hospitals and one extra regional hospital for the Western region. The district hospital project as you recall was first announced in April 2020 by President Akufo-Addo during his 8th Covid update to the nation. It is programmed to take between twelve months to complete each one from the point of commencement Since this announcement the project implementation committee chaired by Chief of Staff Madam Akosua Frema Osei Opare has been delivering a number of objectives
“One, to secure the physical location of 111 sites. Currently, they have secure 88 of those 111 sites. Not just the physical location but also securing title to the parcels of land. 88 out of 111 so far each of these parcels is about 15 acres.
“They have also been procuring the services of consultants. The master project itself has its consultant then for every one of the 111 sites, like it is done in every construction project you need the consultant and the contractors working on it, they have also been delivering on this. They have also been working to secure funding for it and commencement funding of $100million dollars has been made available to the project through the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund. For the project themselves, it is budgeted US$17million for each of the district hospitals, the district and specialized hospitals are being funded by the government of Ghana.”
President Nana Akufo-Addo in his eighth Covid-19 address to the nation last year announced the construction of hospitals in some 88 districts across the country.
“There are 88) districts in our country without district hospitals; we have six (6) new regions without regional hospitals; we do not have five infectious disease control centres dotted across the country; and we do not have enough testing and isolation centres for diseases like COVD-19. We must do something urgently about this. That is why Government has decided to undertake a major investment in our healthcare infrastructure, the largest in our history. We will, this year, begin constructing 88 hospitals in the districts without hospitals,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo also reiterated the government’s plans of building regional hospitals in the six new regions to boost healthcare delivery in the country.
“Each of them will be a quality, standard-design, one hundred bed hospital, with accommodation for doctors, nurses and other health workers, and the intention is to complete them within a year. We have also put in place plans for the construction of six new regional hospitals in the six new regions, and the rehabilitation of the Effia Nkwanta Hospital, in Sekondi, which is the regional hospital of the Western Region.”
Infectious disease control centers
Additionally, President Akufo-Addo gave an indication that work will soon commence on three infectious disease control centers for each of the zones of the country to improve Ghana’s testing capacities with regards to contagious illnesses.
“We are going to beef up our existing laboratories and establish new ones across every region for testing. We will establish three infectious disease control centers for each of the zones of our country, i.e. Coastal, Middle Belt and Northern, with the overall objective of setting up a Ghana Centre for Disease Control. The recent, tragic CSM outbreak, with over 40 deaths, has reaffirmed the need for ready access to such infectious disease control centres, even though, in our time, nobody should die of the disease.”
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