Former Minister for Health, Alex Segbefia, has described as unfair Vice President Dr. Bawumia’s assertion that the cost of hospital projects in the country are often far higher than similar projects elsewhere, largely due to corruption.
Mr. Segbefia said the Vice President’s statement did not take into account equipment and other related facilities as part of the hospital project.
While speaking at a Value for Money Conference in Accra on Monday, Dr. Bawumia said contracts for the construction of hospitals in Ghana are often inflated more than four times the original price.
He said, “A comparative analysis reveals that better quality hospitals are currently built at more cost-effective rates in places like India than in Ghana….Ghana constructs 60-80 bed district hospitals for $25 million, the African Development Bank constructed a 150-bed hospital in Accra a few years ago for GHC5.76 million or $1.3 million, which was without equipment. Even if we have to equip this hospital for some $1 million or $2 million, the total cost will be some $3 million,” he said.
“So how come we are building 60-80 bed hospitals for $25 million, and this figure does not include the tax exemptions granted on equipment imported for the hospitals. So for one hospital that we are building, we could have built 6 hospitals in Ghana,” Bawumia added.
It has been suggested that Dr. Bawumia’s comment was in reference to the situation the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government had found with contracts executed under the previous administration, but Alex Segbefia, while reacting to the issue on Eyewitness News on Monday, said the comparison by Dr. Bawumia was unfair.
According to him, Dr. Bawumia failed to holistically assess the project contract documents to ascertain their respective scopes.
“That is an unfortunate statement because the comparisons put out there are not fair….If the Vice President clearly said equipment is not part of the cost of what he is talking about and that goes to the heart of the very nature of the comparison because you can buy a vehicle that has the same body but the engines; one can be 1.2 liters and the other 3 liters. The prices will be different,” he said.
“So what is under the scope? What has gone into the hospital? the equipment? The fact that the hospitals being built now have accommodation for doctors and nurses as part of the cost. Access to the hospitals are also part of the contract. So to do a comparison, you have to bring the AfDB contract and the current contract and do a proper analysis,” he added.
Alex Segbefia further argued that such projects undergo rigorous scrutiny by various stakeholders including cabinet and parliament to ensure value for money hence Dr. Bawumia’s assertion may be misleading.
“The reference to previous contracts being overly priced is unfair. I don’t think that the comparison is fair. These contracts are not done unilaterally. They go for parliamentary approval. First of all the ministry looks at it, it goes to cabinet, cabinet looks at it then it goes to parliament. When it gets to parliament it goes to the subcommittee…. Then it gets to the full house of parliament. Even then, arguments go on there, before final approval is given,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Spokesperson of the Vice President, Dr. Gideon Boako, has said that the Vice President’s comment was only to raise public awareness on the issue and urge stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the problem.
“The import of the Vice President’s indication was for us to avert our minds to these different contracts and see what the specifications are, and what accounted for the huge differences and whether or not Ghana can restructure the contracts it is going to sign so that we can get value for money and we may not have to use so much more.”
He however indicated that the Vice President may consider causing a retrospective review of previous government contracts to check for value for money.
“Government may have to go back to contracts that have been awarded earlier and do some auditing and see whether or not government lost some money along the line and if it is possible government to look at those contracts for proper value for money,” he said.