President John Mahama has sparked a serious controversy on the actual cost being borne by government in training 250 Ghanaian medical students in Cuba in a deal he brokered last year.
According to the president, the cost of training of each of the Ghanaians in Cuba is $5,000 (GHÂ¢10million) instead of the GHÂ¢50,000 per year being quoted by various sources including government documents.
Government has quoted GHÂ¢50,000, with cabinet memos putting the entire deal to GHÂ¢60million.
The presidentâs submission has drawn extreme discomfort from the Ghana Medical Association (GMA).
Dr. Kwabena Opoku Adusei, President of GMA, told DAILY GUIDE in a telephone conversation on yesterday evening, âThe figures donât tally, somebody is not telling the truth.
âThere were figures before the debate and you look at those figures and you look at what His Excellency said, then it means there is something wrong somewhere.â
The discrepancy emerged at the widely publicized Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Presidential Debate held in Tamale on Tuesday.
President Mahama was compelled to come clean with the actual figures involved in the Ghana-Cuban medical training deal.
Mid May this year, the Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG), a pro NPP pressure group, blew the lid on the healthcare deal when government sources were cited as concluding plans to commit approximately GHÂ¢50, 000 per annum to train each of the 250 medical students.
President Mahama, who was caught in a back and forth banter with the NPP candidate during the healthcare session of the debate, explained that the cost for training the medical personnel in Cuba was $5,000 (approximately GHÂ¢10, 000), instead of the GHÂ¢50, 000 a year that had been widely quoted.
âThe cost of training one child under the Cuban arrangement is $5,000, far lower than the cost of training in our medical school here and so we had to take that opportunity,â President Mahama explained.
A âsecretâ cabinet memo from former Health Minister Joseph Yieleh Chireh, dated August 18, 2011, which was approved by Chief of Staff John Henry Martey Newman, gave evidence of government officials justifying an amount of Cuc30, 750.00, or an equivalent of GHÂ¢50, 660.12 to train Ghanaian High School graduates as medical students in Cuba.
In the arrangement elaborated by the former Minister of Health, it would cost the nation GHÂ¢10, 132, 024.00 to train 200 students to study medicine in Cuba each year and approximately GHÂ¢60.80 million for the next six years (the total duration of the study).
Also in the arrangement, an amount of GHÂ¢48,189 would be spent on another 50 students per annum to receive specialist training in that country. In total, the government of Ghana is expected to spend approximately GHÂ¢74.35million on the project.
Information gathered by DAILY GUIDE indicates that for the first year, 2012, Ghana is expected to spend about GHÂ¢14.50million as the first tranche of payment.
Nana Akufo-Addo said, âThe initiative [is] far from accelerating the delivery of medical care for our people, we would have used that money much better in empowering the medical institutions in our country to deliver and produce more doctors.â
The GMA said the total cost of training could be used to bolster medical infrastructure in the country to train far more medical students locally.
Dr Adusei-Poku, in May, advised government to review its policy on the Cuban deal.
âThe government is taking a huge sum of money into this Cuba medical training when it could have been channeled into improving our local medical schools like Korle-Bu Teaching hospital or the Ghana Medical School,â he told Accra-based Citi FM.
âThe maternity rooms in Komfo Anokye have been there for the last 40 years and they still have only-one-and-a-half theatre tables. Are we not throwing the money away?â
It is unclear why President Mahama, then the Vice President, brokered the deal.
The medical exchange which, begun under the PNDC dictatorship in 1983, had no cost implication to the Ghanaian taxpayer, then.
President Mahama, under a Revised Cuban Agreement, during his April 2011 trip to Havana, brokered this multi-million-dollar deal on behalf of Ghana, contrary to what was reported on the official website of the Cuban Embassy in Ghana.
Contrary to all the financial implications being trumpeted by the Ghanaian government, the Cuban government gives an impression that the deal is actually a gratuity. On its official website, it stated,Â âUnder the agreements, the Cuban government will provide scholarships for all the 250 students who were selected from deprived communities throughout the country and would be ready to come back to serve their communitiesâ¦â
DAILY GUIDE gathered that the Presidency, Ministers and the Scholarship Secretariat, were made to submit a âprotocolâ list of 138 individuals, whilst the Office of the then Vice President and that of the National Security Coordinator, Lt. Col. Larry Gbevlo-Lartey (rtd), increased Â the number with a supplementary list of 41 names to benefit from the scheme.
By: Raphael Ofori-Adeniran