President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has absolved his government of any malfeasance in the expenditure of funds raised for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commenting on the controversial matter for the first time when he delivered the state of the nation address in parliament, he said, the funds were not misapplied nor abused for personal gains.
He said “Mr Speaker, it was the government that asked for the COVID-19 funds to be audited, and I can assure this House that nothing dishonourable was done with the COVID funds.
“The responses from the Ministers for Health and Finance, on January 23 and 25, 2023, respectively, have sufficiently laid to rest the queries from the Auditor General’s report, and I believe any objective scrutiny of these statements from the Health and Finance Ministries would justify this conclusion,” he said.
In January this year, the Auditor-General’s report on the country’s COVID-19 expenditure revealed that out of GH¢21,844,189,185.24 mobilised, GH¢11,750,683,059.11 was spent on COVID-19 activities and the rest on budget support.
It highlighted several infractions including payment of US$81.87 million for 10.9 million doses of undelivered COVID-19 vaccines and issuance of medical equipment valued at US$110,088.00 and GH¢27,895.00 to a private facility which did not handle COVID-19 patients.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General had described the publication of the report by the Auditor-General as unconstitutional.
President Akufo-Addo explained that “It is critical that we do not lose the confidence of the people that a crisis that they were led to believe we were all in together was abused for personal gain.”
Giving highlights of the expenditure, he said the government provided GH¢518 million of grants and loans to 302,515 micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) through the Ghana Enterprise Agency of which 60 per cent were women-owned.
“These were MSMEs that were in distress as a result of the pandemic. For some traders, the receipt of GH¢1,000 made the difference between the ruin of the household and survival,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo said 58,041 health workers were employed to supplement the existing health sector workforce, and had been subsequently absorbed as permanent workers in the health sector.
In addition, he said, frontline health workers were also granted 50 per cent tax relief for the period, saying “Was that something to regret? We should be forever grateful for the work that so many people did to keep all of us safe.”
The President also mentioned other expenditure such as the free water supply and huge discounts on electricity bills to cushion people and help promote hygienic practices during the pandemic.
“Mr Speaker, no auditor can put a figure on the cost of keeping the children in school safely during that crisis, nor the continuing cost of the effect of the pandemic on our young people; not the financial cost, not the emotional cost, and certainly not the social cost. But we must thank the Almighty that we have survived to repair the damage, and begin to rebuild our economy,” he said.
Touching on general wellbeing of Ghanaians, he said although the situation might be dire today, Ghanaians should count their blessings including availability of fuel, food, uninterrupted energy supply and security.
BY JONATHAN DONKOR & JULIUS YAO PETETSI
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