Statesman and successful businessman Sam Jonah has raised questions about the circumstances under which Ghana’s central medical stores caught fire in 2015 saying he does not understand why the authorities were unable to account for the number of drugs that were destroyed in the inferno.
“Lest I forget, how did the entire stores holding pharmaceuticals at Ghana’s biggest harbour burn down with no evidence nor records whatsoever of the stocks therein?” he asked.
Jonah made the remarks while addressing the 2023 annual general conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana in Takoradi on Wednesday, September 6, 2023.
He also lamented the corruption in Ghana’s public service and the health sector.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are where we are, but the health of our nation is not what we want it to be,” he said.
“Like in a patient, the systems that must work together to ensure wellness are not functioning as expected and, as a result, our values are under siege. Confidence in key institutions are on the decline. Checks and balances which are desperately needed for the progress of any nation are seriously compromised.”
“Corruption and greed have eaten deep into the fabric of our nation. Young people are fast losing hope and the dignity of labour. Public services, which are already paid for by taxpayers’ money, are subject to bribes solicited by public officials in order to speed up processes or to exempt people from necessary procedures. It is here too,” he added.
The Central Medical Stores, which were located at Tema, contained every conceivable drug imported into the country before onward distribution to the various regions. The fire, which broke out on January 13, 2015, destroyed an estimated GHc237 million worth of medical supplies.
The Global Fund, a global health financing organization, later forgave Ghana after its $27 million worth of medical supplies were lost in the fire.
Speaking at a press conference in Accra in May 2019, the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, said the Global Fund had pardoned Ghana after it was discovered that health commodities worth $27 million belonging to them were affected.
Per the agreement, Ghana had to refund the amount, but the minister said the donors, knowing very well that Ghana does not have the financial strength to pay back the money, had decided to let it go.
Jonah’s comments have reignited the debate about the fire at the Central Medical Stores and the need for accountability in Ghana’s public sector.