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Statement On Report Into CMS Fire: A Case Of Arson Carried Out To Cover-Up Massive Corruption

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Early last year, the largest medical store facility in the country, the Central Medical Storage (CMS) in Tema, caught fire, leading to the loss of millions of cedis worth of drugs and nearly sparking a drug shortage emergency.
An investigation was commissioned into the cause of the fire, the findings for which were released on Friday.
The investigation found that the fire was a case of arson, carried out to cover up massive corruption that was endemic at the stores. One Sam Dogbe, a labourer at the facility who is currently at large, is believed to have set the fire, on the instructions of twelve officials of the CMS.
Officials at the Medical Stores were being investigated at the time by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) for theft and several other corrupt practices which were endemic at the office, and the fire was to cover-up evidence by destroying documents and other crucial pieces of information. The fact that the fire occurred on the day of a big audit raised no suspicions at all, I’m sure.
The twelve to be interdicted include Peter Ekow Gyimah – Former Head of CMS, Alhaji Yusif Inua – Member of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the CMS, Iddrisu Abdul-Karim – Acting Head of the CMS, Gifty Esi Mankartha – Principal Pharmacist/Warehouse Manager and Zeboat Doh – Warehouse Manager.
The rest are Ibrahim Laryeah Amartey – Line Warehouse Manager/General Pharmaceuticals Unit, Kwame Foli – Warehouse Manager, Mathias Senaya – Warehouse Manager/General Pharmaceuticals, Victoria Anning – Senior Supply Officer/Project Stores, Abdul Karim, James Benjamin Annan – Pharmacist/System Analyst and Peter Atiba Addah – Storekeeper
Government released a statement on the report, which details the inventive lengths corrupt public officials can go to make money. It can be read below….
GOVERNMENT STATEMENT ON THE INVESTIGATION INTO THE FIRE OUTBREAK AT THE CENTRAL MEDICAL STORES (CMS)
On 13th January, 2015, there was a fire outbreak at the Central Medical Store (CMS), Tema Industrial Area, in which a large stock of medical supplies and records were destroyed.
Investigations were conducted by National Security with the following objectives:

  1. Identify the causes of the fire
  2. Establish whether or not there was foul play;
  3. If there was foul play, determine the person or persons involved;
  4. establish the motivates of the person or person involved;
  5. establish lapses, if any, in administrative procedures and fire safety measures that may have contribution to the fire outbreak.

2.0 Findings
2.1 It was established that the fire was deliberately set and that property damaged was worth millions of Ghana cedis. In all, five warehouses storing general pharmaceuticals, surgical/dressing material, stationary and other items were destroyed.
2.2 The suspected arsonist, one Samuel Dogbe, a labourer at CMS, is currently at large and is being sought for by the security agencies.
2.3 According to the report of national security, the fire was deliberately set to destroy evidence of theft and massive fraud and widespread regulations in the procurement and distribution of medical supplies involving senior management and junior staff. It is believed that “Samuel Dogbe was paid to set the fire in order to destroy the evidence.
2.4 The motive for the destruction of the evidence was the fact that the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) had tasked to investigates the circumstances surrounding the expiration of large quantities of drugs and medical items at the CMS. A stock count of all medical consumables had also been slated for 13th January, 2015, to be used for an exhaustive audit of supplies made to the CMS and allocations to health institutions in 2014.
In other words, suspected irregularities and fraud in procurement and allocations to health institutions, and their imminent discovery by the planned investigations and audit, provided the motive for the sponsorship of the arson.
2.5 Among the irregularities and fraudulent activities in the procurement and allocations to health institutions revealed by the National Security Investigations were the following:
(a) Malaria Control Programme managers diverted large quantities of antimalarial drugs meant for public health institutions;
(b) The systems software for recording stock levels of medical supplies and keeping track of allocations was manipulated, rendering it ineffectual and facilitating massive diversion of medical items.
(c) Large quantities of Artemether Lumefantrine, an anti-malarial drug, were stolen or diverted and sold to entities in Nigeria and La Cote d’lvoire.
(d) Anti-malarial drugs were routinely diverted to non-existent Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs);
(e) Some drugs were falsely declared to be close to their date of expiration so that permission would be given for them to be taken out for destruction; these were then sold to private pharmacy shops after permission had been granted for them to be destroyed;
(f) Expired drugs, mostly anti-malarial medicines, from a private pharmacy shop were sometimes swapped for good drugs supplied to the CMS by the company;
(g) Fifty (50) boxes of assorted anti-malarial drugs were hoarded by two officers of the CMS who claimed that the CMS had completely ran out of those drugs;
(h) Following the discovery of widespread corruption in the sale of anti-malarial drugs, an embargo was placed on the sale of the drugs to private health institutions; however, an officer of the CMS evaded the directive and continued to make deliveries to private health institutions, false recording that those deliveries had been made to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital;
(i) Large quantities of pethidine, a highly-controlled narcotic drug, were stolen from the CMS and sold mostly to a pharmacist at the 37 Military Hospitals in Accra.
(j) Expired medical non-consumables items, including face masks and disinfectants, were regularly sold to private entities and the monies shared among the staff that facilitated the transaction;
(k) Supplies of medical commodities to the CMS were based on the issuance of acceptance certificates prepared by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) for payment; however, procurements were made and certificated of payment issued without any effort at cross-checking at CMS to establish whether the right drugs has been supplied and in the requested and allocations to health institutions.
2.6 The following officers of the CMS were identified by the National Security investigations as being part of a network at CMS responsible for the systemic theft of large quantities of medical supplies and irregularities in the procurement and allocations to health institutions:

  1. Peter Ekow Gyimah – Former Head of CMS
    b. Alhaji Yusif Inua – Member of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the CMS
    c. Iddrisu Abdul-Karim – Acting Head of the CMS
    d. Gifty Esi Mankartha – Principal Pharmacist/Warehouse Manager
    e. Zeboat Doh – Warehouse Manager
    f. Ibrahim Laryeah Amartey – Line Warehouse Manager/General Pharmaceuticals Unit
    g. Kwame Foli – Warehouse Manager
    h. Mathias Senaya – Warehouse Manager/General Pharmaceuticals
    i. Victoria Anning – Senior Supply Officer/Project Stores
    j. Abdul Karim
    k. James Benjamin Annan – Pharmacist/System Analyst
    l. Peter Atiba Addah – Storekeeper

3.2 Government has further directed the interdiction of all the above-named individuals until the final determination of their cases, subject to the provisions of Human Resource Management Policy Framework and Manual for the Ghana Public Services.
3.3 Government has also accepted the following modified recommendations in the investigations report:

  1. A proper forensic audit should be carried out to unearth the extent to which consumables and non-consumable drugs were diverted. The exercise should cover the distribution of mosquito nets meant for distribution to the Volta Regional Medical Stores and District Health Institutions.

Government has directed the Minister of Health, in consultation with Auditor-General, to constitute a Special Audit Task Force to undertake the exercise. The Task Force should work under the auspices of the Auditor-General, using the framework of the Audit Service Act, 2000, Act 584.

  1. A forensic audit should be carried out into a transaction between Volta Impex and the Ministry of Health. Information was gathered that an amount of five million cedis (GH¢5m) was paid to Volta Impex for the supply of two million (@) prescription forms to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2011, when the actual cost of the supply was Volta Impex supplied one hundred thousand (100,000) copies of the prescription form doctors in state-run hospitals/clinic declined to use it, describing the prescription form as deficient. All the one hundred thousand (100,000) copies of the form were destroyed in the fire. It was later detected that the Procurement Unit of the Ministry of Health shielded the wrongdoing.

Government has directed the same Special Audit Task Force to undertake this exercise.
The Special Audit Task force should work with the Police CID who will prepare dockets alongside the audit for possible prosecution of all those found culpable at the end of the two special audit exercises.

  1. Government has directed the Police CID to declare Samuel Dogbe , the suspected arsonist , a “Wanted” Person and to take all necessary steps, including seeking the assistance of Interpol, to effect his arrest.

4.0 Structural, Administrative and Operational Set-up of the CMS
4.1 As a result of administrative and operational lapses identified at the CMS in the course of the National Security investigations, Government has directed the Minister of Health, with the assistance of experts and consultants, to undertake a thorough reorganization and restructuring of the CMS including its systems, operations and existing checks and balances, if any.
4.2 the re-organisation and restructuring exercise should take into account the following recommendations in the investigation report.
a. future supplies to CMS should be properly documented and stored; tight control measures should be adopted for monitoring allocation to supplies to outside bodies; and similar measures should be instituted for supplies belonging to outside organisations that store products at CMS;

  1. measures to minimize the incidence of the procurement of expired drugs and other medical items’
  2. the submission of the Procurement Unit of the CMS to due diligence in the procurement of drugs, in line with the needs of medical stores, to avoid excessive storage of particular drugs;
  3. the supervision and control of inventory officers by Heads of the CMS warehouses;
  4. the institution of scheduled delivery systems for the delivery of drugs’
  5. a strengthening of the internal audit/regime of the CMS to ensure constant monitoring of transactions at CMS;
  6. the re-assignment of the current management/middle level staff of the CMS, so that a new team of professionals can replace them.

4.3 Government also directs the team working on the re-organisation and restructuring exercise to examine the possibility of decentralizing the operations of the CMS, especially drug pruchases, to the regional level in order to minimize the risk usually associated with such centralized operations and purchasing, and the type of loss that has occurred in this fire outbreak.
4.4 in conducting the re-organisation and restructuring exercise, account should be taken of the following recommendations in the investigation report;

  1. the current location of the CMS facility in an industrial zone is not the best;
    b. the need for a well-defined/organized security regime including the installation of electronic access control and monitoring devises;
  2. the need for well-designed warehouses with fireproof strong rooms for the storage of
    vital/emergency drugs and a well-equipped fire station.

5.0 Lapses in Fire Prevention Measures
5.1.1 The investigations established that

  1. The fire safety/prevention measures at CMS had been evaluated by an expert company on 14th April, 2014 and the company had established that the CMS had little fire-fighting capacity and was at all times vulnerable to fire, the specific vulnerable had been detailed out in their report to management, but no action was taken to improve the CMS’ fire-safety and prevention measures.
  2. The Tema Metropolitan Assembly’s Public Department had on 2nd October, 2014, served a “Notice of Abatement” under section 34 (1) of the Town Ordinance, Cap, 86, warning the management of the CMS to stop accumulating and burning refuse on the promises; not only did the officer who received the ‘Notice of Abatement” ignore it, she challenged the capacity of the Tema Metropolitan Assembly inspectors to issue the Notice; as it turned out, it was the incinerators on the premises of the CMS that appeared to have been used to start the fire,
  3. Management instructions for action to be taken to stop the burning of refuse on the CMS premises were ignored.

5.2 The following officers of CMS were found culpable for the various lapses in fire prevention measures at the CMS:

  1. Gifty Esi Mankartha – Principal Pharmacist/Warehouse Manager;
    b. Samuelson Tetteh – Head of Security;
    c. Harry Okwampah – Line Manager in charge of Information and Communication Technology.

5.3 Government has directed the Minister of Health to take appropriate disciplinary action against the three named officers.
5.4 Government draws the attention of all state organisations to the following general recommendations on fire safety, contained in the report of the Chief Fire Officer of the Ghana National Fire Service, attached to the National Security’s investigation report and directs that they should be noted for strict compliance:

  1. It must be an automatic requirement for warehouses to have sprinklers that will detect and extinguish fires before the arrival of the Ghana National Fire Service;
  2. Fire Safety Officers should be employed in all major Health Institutions and Warehouses to enable them advice Management on fire safety precautions and protective measures;
  3. Due to the scarcity of water during such emergencies, boreholes must be installed or drilled at al state warehouses in future, to augement water for firefighting;
  4. Warehouse owners and operators should seek expert guidance from the Ghana National Fire Service before and during the storage of Hazardous Materials, Flammables Liquids, Solids and Gases, Explosives, Oxidizers and other Reactive Materials.

 
 
 



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