Deputy Information Minister, Pius Hadzide, has dismissed suggestions that operating the drone-delivery system for medical supplies at just four distribution centres for four years would cost the country $27.8 million.
According to Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, operating the services would cost the state $145, 000 dollars monthly at each distribution centre.
However, Mr. Hadzide rubbished this assertion, stating that the highest estimated cost of implementing the programme at each distribution centre is $88, 000, with rebates potentially reducing the amount by $11, 000.
He stated that the figures mentioned by Ato Forson were a figment of the legislator’s imagination, adding that he had been misinformed.
“With all due respect, Ato Forson is quite uninformed about this agreement that is before parliament. I invite him to take a careful look at the agreement again because a lot of the things he’s talking about are not in the agreement and are figments of his imagination.
“For instance, he speaks about the cost per centre being $145, 000. That is absolutely false. The cost per centre is actually calculated based on the number of deliveries that every centre is making. It has been categorized; if you make between 0 and 15 deliveries a day, at the end of the month, there’s a charge that you get and that goes on to over a 100 deliveries. The maximum cost for 100 deliveries from a centre is $88, 000 at the end of the month, which is also open to an 11, 000 rebate if we pay on time. That brings the maximum cost to about $77, 000. I don’t know where Ato Forson is getting his figures from. It’s not in the agreement and only exists in his imagination”
Mr. Hadzide also debunked suggestions that the government was procuring the drones from the company.
According to him, the deal with Silicon Valley-based logistics company, Zipline International Incorporated, is a service agreement, with the company being contracted to operate their own devices.
“This is not a lease agreement. We are neither buying or leasing the equipment, this is a service agreement. Essentially it is akin to a transportation service. It’s like a taxi that’s taking you from Point A to Point B, we’re not buying the infrastructure.”
He brushed aside Mr. Forson’s concerns that the government is paying too much for the drone service after the latter suggested that the costs had been inflated.
“Mr. Forson googles and thinks the drones we are talking about are the ones we are familiar with; the ones we see at weddings and funerals which are used to take pictures. That’s not the kind of drones being spoken of. A lot of the things that Ato Forson has said are not factual and are wild exaggerations and allegations that have not been spoken of.”
The government entered into the $12 million contract for the design, installation and operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), after approval from the Public Procurement Authority.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Authority, AB Adjei, stated among other things that “we also noted the rather strong argument put up by the Service Provider to justify their pricing; indicating that the price offered to the Ministry of Health is comparable to prices for similar operations in other jurisdictions.
Parliament on Monday deferred the approval process for the agreement on Monday to allow for some regulatory checks to be completed before the agreement is approved by the House.
The First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joseph Osei Owusu, explained that “There are outstanding regulatory approvals for compliance with the law before the house takes the decision, and the Minister seems to agree with me.”
The Minority in Parliament rejected the agreement, citing the fact that it was sole-sourced.
Cassiel Ato Forson in a Citi News interview on Tuesday said the deal is a rip-off and must be withdrawn from the House.
“We’ve said it that this one, it is a rip off. If even everyone supports it, me Cassiel Ato Forson will not support it because I think it is a rip off. I think it is something the president must intervene in. The Vice President is leading this country unto a path of unrighteousness because obviously, we can use $27.8 million for something better,” he said.
Drone deal misplaced priority
Minority Spokesperson on Health, Joseph Yieleh Chireh had earlier said the agreement was misplaced priority.
The Wa West MP indicated that the amount of money that will be spent on this project could have been used to provide healthcare services for persons in deprived communities.
Meanwhile, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has described the drone delivery of medical supplies as the most efficient and cost-effective means of reaching under-served areas in the country.
According to the Director General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, the use of drone technology to deliver emergency services fits perfectly into government’s plan of achieving access to Universal healthcare in the country.