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EOCO completes investigation into importation of fake 'Be Safe' condoms



By: Fred Yaw Sarpong

The Economic and Organized Crime Unit (EOCO) has completed its investigation into the importation and distribution of fake ‘Be Safe’ condoms into the country.

Global UniLink Ventures Limited is the Ghanaian company allegedly involved in the importation of some 130 million fake ‘Be Safe condoms’ into Ghana.

A statement signed by the Executive Director of EOCO, Mr. Mortey Akpadzi said they have completed interrogating all principal actors and will forward the report to the Attorney - General’s (AGs) Department hopefully this week for advice and further actions in accordance with the law.

Mr. Akpadzi stated that a contract between Ghana Health Service (GHS) and Global UniLink Ventures Limited for the supply of condoms by Global UniLinks Ventures Limited to the Ghana Health Service (GHS) on the basis of a supply Contract entered into by the parties, were found to be defective.

‘Upon examination, the condoms were found to be short, had visible holes and tore under pressure. Also, upon inspection of the warehouse, it was discovered that the lubricant had seeped out,’ the statement said.

Meanwhile, before EOCO investigation, a committee was inaugurated on the 14th of May 2013 by the Minister of Health, Madam Sherry Aryittey 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 process.

The money, which was about US$6 million 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.
The Minister said when she received the committee’s report that, “if we have to go to the international court to get our money we will do so.”

After receiving the committee’s 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 appeared 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 Minister promised that the supplier, Global UniLink Ventures will be asked by the government to refund at least US$5 million to the state.

She 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.
According to a source at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), there a total of four (4) companies responded to the original tender request in June 2011. The companies were Pharmadrug Production GmbH; Beautiful Creations Company Limited; Vicdoris Pharmacy Limited and Global Unilink Ventures.

Preliminary tender evaluation results from the GHS disqualified Beautiful Creations (for providing insurance from a non-bank financial institution) and Vicdoris Pharmacy was also disqualified (for providing an expired tax clearance certificate).

The other two companies, namely Global UniLink Ventures and Pharmadrug Production bid for the male and female condoms respectively, making them the defacto sole sourced winners of the bid in each category.  

The Daily Express gathered that the tender should have been reopened, but that was not done. Instead, the GHS went ahead to award the bid to the companies by calling them the 'lowest bidders' for male and female condoms.

The US$4 million contract award to Global UniLink Ventures to supply the male condoms was later increased by 35% and a 28% reduction on the quantity of the supply.

It was discovered however that the condoms delivered to Ghana were supplied by Harley's of Kenya who initially were claimed by Global UniLink Ventures to be the manufacturers. But much later in the year, Global UniLink Ventures admitted that the condoms were manufactured in China and not in Kenya as earlier claimed.
   
The Daily Express checks at the Chinese Embassy in Accra indicates that the Chinese manufacturer contacted by Harley's in Kenya was only able to export 25 million pieces of the condoms to Ghana, amounting to only 17% of the total order.

There was no information about where the rest of the condoms were gotten from.
The committee, set up by the Minister of Heath, Madam Sherry Ayittey to investigate the importation of the 130 million pieces of fake condoms for the Ghana Health Service (GHS) found that there was a serious rift between the procurement units of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and GHS over who should do the procurement. It was also a question of who the real GHS procurement manager is for the purposes of pharmaceutical procurement.

It was revealed that the GHS awarded tenders to importers who were not registered with the Food Drug Authority (FDA).

“When goods arrived at the ports they (GHS authority) mysteriously get cleared from the ports without the full knowledge of FDA,” the committee report revealed.

Meanwhile, the Daily Express has gathered that the fake condoms have the following batch numbers: CQ20124734, CQ20124735, CQ20124739, CQ20124751, CQ20124753, CQ20124761 and CQ20124791.




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