Ghana almost lost $9m project after UE/R health boss’ ‘false alarm’

Upper East Regional Health Director, Dr. Kofi Issah (extreme right).

The Director General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira, has revealed Ghana came close to losing a 9-million-dollar project after the Upper East Regional Director of Health, Dr. Kofi Issah, “deliberately made false claims” that some project vehicles had gone missing in the region.

Just a week before Dr. Issah’s “missing vehicles” announcement hit the air, the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) had signed an agreement with the Ghana Health Service to help expand community-based clinics, track the health of pregnant women and babies and to provide equipment, vehicles, logistics and training programmes for health facilities in the region.

But in the aftermath of that open declaration by the regional director, KOICA, according to the Director General, put on hold the 9-million-dollar project agreement meant for the region for fear that the posh resources they were to provide would end up misused and missing like the ‘vanished’ automobiles.

“After the stories about the missing vehicles came up, KOICA became apprehensive, afraid that the region was not safe. They asked- how can vehicles be missing? So, they put on hold the first signing we had in August. It took efforts to convince them that it was just an attitudinal problem from a regional director (Dr. Issah). It was just last week we had to resume the agreement with them after they had put on hold the first one. It’s a 5-year 9-million-dollar project covering the entire Upper East Region.

“The project started in the Upper East Region when Dr. Awoonor was the Regional Director. After the successful implementation of the first phase in 3 districts in the region, the donors had wanted to move the second phase to another region, but Awoonor went to KOICA to lobby for the second phase of the project to not only continue in the Upper East Region but also to cover the entire region,” the Director General told Starr News.

Dr. Awoonor-Williams is also said to have successfully lobbied for another 8-million-dollar Doris Duke Charitable Foundation funded project for the Northern and the Volta regions.

Shooting down a messiah

Dr. Issah had told the public late in August, this year, that the whereabouts of some five vehicles- including a car, a Mitsubishi Pajero, a V8 and 2 pickups- could not be traced after the management at the directorate had taken stock of the year 2015.

Although the regional director did not mention names in connection with the ‘disappeared’ automobiles, the public suspected he was seeking to blow the whistle on his immediate predecessor, Dr. John Koku Awoonor-Williams, as having deliberately sneaked the vehicles out of the directorate to sabotage health system in the region. Whilst the allegation left many people in shock in its wake, many more slammed the director, saying it was an unwise move and a needless administrative blunder on his part to want to deal in public with a matter he should have left to the Director General to handle in private.

The Director General, in response to the August announcement, wrote to Dr. Issah a summons letter, copies of which were dispatched to the Minister of Health and the Chairman of the Ghana Health Service Council, depicting the revelation as a false alarm and asking the regional director to report to the head office for questioning. Written with a tone of disappointment, the letter made it clear that Dr. Issah was only out to smear the reputation of Dr. Awoonor-Williams with untruths because, before he chose to tell the public that the vehicles were missing, he had reported the case to the headquarters who, in reply, had made the whereabouts of the vehicles known to him and also had mentioned the reason for their relocation.

Subsequently, checks by Starr News revealed that the “missing vehicles” were among 6 special vehicles meant for the implementation of the Ghana Essential Health Intervention Project (GEHIP) in the region. Three of the vehicles are said to be in the region for service delivery whilst the rest have been sent to the headquarters for the continuation and expansion of the same project in the Northern and the Volta regions.

The October 2015 “coup d’état”

Dr. Awoonor-Williams, now Director in charge of Planning, Policy, Monitoring and Evaluation (PPME), left the region without a well-deserved farewell. Dr. Issah was due to replace a retired Northern Regional Health Director, Dr. Akwasi Twumasi, in 2015; but an open demonstration, staged strongly in Tamale by some youths who wanted their favourite, Dr. Jacob Mahama, to succeed Dr. Twumasi, saw Dr. Issah reposted to the Upper East Region and Dr. Awoonor-Williams suddenly asked to move to the headquarters.

According to sources, Dr. Awoonor-Williams was scheduled to hand over in December, 2015, whilst Dr. Issah was said to have been asked to remain in the Brong Ahafo Region (where he was until his promotion was due) in the meantime. But a group of people, in solidarity with Dr. Issah, forced Dr. Awoonor-Williams out of the region in October, after Dr. Issah reportedly had met with some close associates in Bolgatanga, the regional capital, and allegedly told them he was stranded because the occupant of his new office had declined to hand over.

Dr. Awoonor-Williams left the region after a rushed handover ceremony held for about 10 minutes on Monday October 26, 2015- the day the pro-Issah group reportedly had planned to lock his office and unleash a demonstration in the office yard to embarrass him if he did not hand over.

Several threats sent anonymously via text to him reportedly had preceded the handing-over day with Dr. Issah himself said to have, shortly before the ceremony, stormed the reception room next to the Regional Director’s office, demanding to no avail access to the office whilst Dr. Awoonor-Williams was still on his way from home to the office. Saddened observers, after Dr. Awoonor-Williams had taken his last ride out of the region around the 10th hour following the 10-minute goodbye ceremony held in the 10th month, called the development a “mini coup d’état”.

Dr. Issah to appear before panel Tuesday, October 25

Dr. Issah, the Director General disclosed to Starr News, would appear before the Ghana Health Service Council this Tuesday “to find out if he was naïve or there was a conscious motive” behind his actions.

“On 19th August, 2016, Dr. Kofi Issah was present when my office signed an agreement with KOICA in a project initiated by his predecessor that is going to come along with additional new vehicles to support healthcare delivery in the Upper East Region and enhance the continuation of the project that brought the vehicles to the region.

“Instead of working to consolidate and build on the gains and achievements chalked in the region under his predecessor, Dr. Kofi Issah appears to embark on a programme to drag the name of the Ghana Health Service in the mud. In this quest, which I do not really understand, he appears bent on dragging all powers that be in the fray,” the Director General told the Upper East Regional Minister, Albert Abongo, in a letter a copy of which is in Starr News’s possession.

Dr. Issah has refrained from speaking to the press about the facts of the matter as his fate swings in the balance. What he told Starr News late in September, this year, after he was summoned is, perhaps, the last thing the public has heard from him on the “missing vehicles”.

He said: “I have made my statement. If the Ghanaian public wants to know, they will know. There are processes. I have statutorily reported on my stewardship. I have left the matter for the authorities to sort out. That is just all. The vehicles are not for me. They are for the public.”

Source: Ghana/ Adeti

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