By: Fred Yaw Sarpong
The Minister for Health, Madam Sherry Aryittey has disclosed that the Ghanaian company (name in the custody of the Daily Express but withheld for now) responsible for the importation of the 130 million pieces of fake condoms for Ghana Health Service (GHS) will be asked by the government to refund at least US$5 million to the state.
The ‘Be Safe Condoms’ imported into the country by the company were confirmed to be fake or substandard after an investigation.
The Minister of Health, Madam Sherry Aryittey said government will not accept replacement of the condoms. “The company must refund the money to the state,” she affirmed.
“The Ministry of Health will seek for a full return of funds from the supplier of the sub-standard condoms and the supplier will bear full responsibility for the proper disposal of the sub-standard condoms,” said the Minister.
Hon. Aryittey said this in Accra on Tuesday 26th November, 2013, after the committee which investigated the procurement of the sub-standard condoms presented its report to the Minister.
The fake ‘Be Safe Condoms’ imported by the company and its partners numbered 128 million pieces, instead of 130 million pieces.
The committee was inaugurated on the 14th of May 2013 by the Minister to investigate the procurement processes leading to the award of contract for the condom; find out whether the manufacturer registered with the Food and Drugs Authority prior to the supply of the condoms; find out whether the necessary rules were adhered to at the entry point at the harbour before delivery of the condoms at the Central Medical Stores; investigate whether quality assurance measures were put in place before and after the distribution of the condoms; any other issues pertinent to the investigation; and make recommendations to the Ministry to avoid future recurrence.
The Committee was tasked to finish its work within one month; however the Chairman of the Committee, Prof. Alex Dodoo said they asked for extension and it took them seven (7) months to complete their task due to the complex nature of the whole system.
The money spent on the importation of the 130 million pieces of condoms belonged to the Global Fund and was meant to be used in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in the country.
“We at the Ministry of Health will study the contents of the report; at least I can say that we are not going to accept replacement and the supplier will have to refund every money to this country because our integrity as a nation has been dented in the international community,” she said.
According to her, “If we have to go to the international court to get our money we will do so.”
After receiving the report, Madam Aryittey enlisted the advice and assistance of the Attorney General's Department to prosecute all those who were part of the whole condom procurement transaction.
“For the criminality of the report we will rely on the Attorney General to advice us on those who need to be criminally prosecuted and I think that we will stand by the recommendations of the committee,” she added.
During its investigation, the Committee, considered all issues relating to the procurement of the condoms and identified lapses in the overall supply chain process.
The Committee found that the procurement and supply chain system is associated with serious challenges. The existence of separate procurement units at the health sector was also an issue of concern to the committee.
“The lack of implementation of policy and institutional review of the procurement and supply chain system has contributed to several loopholes. The lack of adherence to both the letter and the spirit of the Public Procurement Act resulted in a situation where a presumed international competitive tender essentially ended up being a sole-sourced tender,” said the committee.
It stated that the Food and Drugs Authority appear to impose a weaker regulatory regime on the public sector leading to cases where unregistered products are procured and imported, adding that the clearance of goods at the ports of entry and the receipt, storage and distribution of goods by the Central Medical Stores were associated with serious anomalies and inconsistencies.
“The Committee finds it worrisome that procurement standards used in obtaining the sub-standard condoms were essentially weak and ineffective due to the absence of controls, accountability and transparency,” the report stated.
The Committee makes recommendations through the Minister to ensure oversight of the implementation by all agencies and departments under the Ministry to allow strict adherence to the Public Health Act.
The report said the Ministry of Health should, as a minimum, make policy recommendations and binding guidelines on the quality of condoms procured by the Ministry using Global Fund’s resources. Its recommends that such a policy should include a requirement that all condoms procured using external resources should be from companies prequalified by the WHO for the supply of condoms or companies meeting the applicable required standards as per WHO/UNFPA guidelines.
It also said a policy review should be carried out to address the institutional and functional aspects of supply and procurement within the Ministry of Health. “To increase access to quality and affordable medicines and health commodities, the Ministry of Health has already taken a lead role to create a Supply Chain Master Plan (SCMP) in late 2011. The Committee is concerned that this policy and institutional review has not been implemented as yet and believes implementation of the Master Plan could be the way forward”.
The Committee further recommends that the Ministry of Health should take immediate steps to clarify the roles of all players in the supply chain process for condoms and other health commodities procured by the Ministry. It said this clarification should be well disseminated to all stakeholders to prevent further confusion.
“The Committee is of the view that circulation of the sub-standard condoms had negatively impacted on the perception of the public about the brand, “Be Safe” and hence recommends strongly that the Ministry of Health should evaluate whether its continued interest in the brand will enable it achieve its original stated intentions in creating the brand in the first place. If the Ministry intends to continue with the “Be Safe” brand, the Committee recommends that the Ministry pre-qualifies suppliers able to meet the WHO/UNFPA guidelines to make future procurement less problematic.”
It further stated that the Ministry of Health should seek for and provide the necessary financial, technical and logistical support to the Food and Drugs Authority to undertake rigorous pre and post-market surveillance of all procured condoms and health commodities in the country.
“The Ministry of Health should specify the roles and activities of the Central Medical Stores especially in relation to the overall quality assurance of condoms, medical devices and other health commodities; the Ministry of Health’s procurement processes should agree with both the letter and the spirit of the Public Procurement Act, Act 663 of 2003; and the Ministry of Health should consider whether the issues surrounding the procurement and distribution of the implicated “Be Safe” condoms should not be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution to serve as a deterrent,” the committee suggested.
Meanwhile, the fake condoms have the following batch numbers: CQ20124734, CQ20124735, CQ20124739, CQ20124751, CQ20124753, CQ20124761 and CQ20124791.