Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recommended the cancellation of the fumigation contracts between waste management company, Zoomlion Ghana Limited, and the metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies (MMDAs).
The Committee said the cancelation of the contract has become necessary because the assemblies cannot “vouch” for the integrity and composition of chemicals used during the fumigation process.
“The Committee observed with concerned (sic) that the Fumigation contract between the Assemblies and Zoomlion Company may result in waste of Public Funds since it is difficult for the Assemblies to vouch for the chemicals being used by the Company for the fumigation exercise.”
The verification exercise is difficult for the assemblies and auditors too, the committee says.
“The Committee is therefore recommending to the Assemblies to not renew the contracts when the existing Agreements expire,” it concluded.
This recommendation is contained in the committee’s report on the Auditor-General’s report on the management and utilization of the District Assemblies Common Fund and other Statutory Funds for the year ending 2020.
The report was adopted by Parliament on July 11, 2023.
The Committee’s recommendation has been the crusade of some assembly members and officials in the country.
In 2017, for instance, the then District Environmental Officer of Kpandai in the Northern Region, Thomas Nkpetri, said the centralisation of the Zoomlion contract robbed the assemblies of their supervisory roles.
“Fumigation in particular, I believe the effect of it is not being seen. You know how our township is and the rainy season and when the place becomes wet, they are a lot of stagnant water bodies in the system. But on the whole, whether the impact is being felt, I don’t believe so.”
His concerns were reechoed by Matthew Dzakpa Mumuni, the Northern Region Environmental Health officer, who said, “Frankly, the chemicals that they used, I have not seen it before, but it’s a concern that there’s the need for us to know.”
The assemblies say they were pressured to sign the contracts with Zoomlion and payments for the contract are carried out in Accra. The District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) Secretariat deducts money from the assemblies’ share of the Common Fund and pays Zoomlion directly in Accra, whether or not the contract is carried out in the districts.
Zoomlion received GHS 469,219,550 since 2015 for the fumigation exercise
Data from the DACF show that Zooomlion Ghana Limited has been paid GHS 469,219,550 in the last eight years, for the work the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee calls “wastage of Public Funds.”
This contract has been running since 2010.
Zoomlion also receives about GHS 20 million every month for “managing” sweepers at the markets and public places in the assemblies. This contract is between Zoomlion and the Youth Employment Agency (YEA). The money is deducted as source and paid to the company. The assemblies do not control the payment.
Despite being paid this amount monthly, Zoomlion Ghana Limited in its budget pegs the cost of each worker at GH₵ 600 per month, but the company pays each worker GH₵ 180 and keeps the rest of the GH₵ 420 as management and logistics fees.
In February 2022, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban S.K. Bagbin directed the Employment and Labour Relations Committee, to investigate the matter.
When the sweepers of the markets collect and put the refuse in communal containers, Zoomlion Ghana Limited has separate contracts with all the assemblies in Ghana to lift the container to the final disposal sites.
This contract is called the Sanitation Improvement Package (SIP). This contract has existed since 2007 and even though the assemblies have expressed worries about its effectiveness, payment is made at the DACF.
The amount paid to Zoomlion Ghana Ltd for the Sanitation Improvement Package ( SIP) and Fumigation since 2015
All amounts in cedis
Source: District Assemblies Common Fund
Zoomlion’s ongoing contract with the government
Zoomlion GH. Ltd has two major contracts with the various MMDAs across the country, currently running – Sanitation Improvement Package (SIP) and Fumigation – aside from the Youth in Sanitation contract.
The SIP/YEA contracts were first signed under John Agyekum Kufuor’s administration and have been running despite many investigative reports and adverse findings against them by the Auditor-General.
The Auditor-General (A-G), in its annual report on the management and utilization of the District Assemblies Common Fund and other Statutory Funds, has, on countless occasions, cited Zoomlion for various contract breaches.
In most cases, the A-G recommended a stoppage of payments to the company and a refund of monies it undeservedly received. In some cases, it recommended an abrogation of the contracts.
However, the DACF administrator continues to deduct from the assemblies’ share of the DACF at source and pay to Zoomlion without even ascertaining, in almost all cases, whether the company has rendered services to, or has valid contracts with the assemblies to merit the payments.
This has resulted in payments made to the company for no work done. In a number of cases, payments were made without contractual agreements.
“In outdoor spaces, large-scale spraying or fumigation in areas such as streets or open market places for the COVID-19 virus or other pathogens is not recommended. Streets and sidewalks are not considered routes of infection for COVID-19. Spraying disinfectants, even outdoors, can be noxious for people’s health and cause eye, respiratory, or skin irritation or damage.”
Prez Akufo-Addo authorised fumigation exercise
In 2020, while Zoomlion Ghana Ltd was already being paid for its fumigation contracts in all assemblies across the country, President Akufo-Addo authorised the award of a contract to Zoomlion Ghana Ltd to fumigate schools, markets, and other public places to fight Covid-19. This was contrary to caution from the World Health Organisation that the measure was ineffective in the fight against the virus.
The so-called Covid-19 fumigation cost Ghana about GHS 500 million.
In addition, the District Assemblies Common Fund also paid Zoomlion Ghana Limited GHS 61,962,000.00 in 2020 for fumigation.
What the World Health Organisation says about Zoomlion-like fumigation contract in 2020
Issuing a notice on how countries may contain the deadly COVID-19, the World Health Organisation said outdoor and large-scale spraying in markets or streets was not recommended.
“In outdoor spaces, large-scale spraying or fumigation in areas such as streets or open market places for the COVID-19 virus or other pathogens is not recommended. Streets and sidewalks are not considered routes of infection for COVID-19. Spraying disinfectants, even outdoors, can be noxious for people’s health and cause eye, respiratory, or skin irritation or damage,” the caution, issued on March 31, 2022, said.
President Akufo-Addo nevertheless authorised the fumigation of schools.
Research and Policy Analyst at Policy Think Tank, Imani Ghana, Bright Simons, said at the time that the decision to contract Zoomlion Ghana Limited for a fumigation exercise was driven by commercial interest rather than public health interest.
Then Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Osei Bonsu Amoah told the media that he agrees with the assertion.
“Whoever says this spraying kills the virus is not being truthful. The spraying only coincided with the coronavirus,” he said in a media interview.
In 2017, an investigative report by JoyNews reporter, Manasseh Azure Awuni, now The Fourth Estate’s founding Editor-In-Chief, unearthed fresh allegations of corruption against the Jospong Group, the parent company of Zoomlion Ghana.
More Zoomlion scandals with the MMDAs fumigation and others
The report revealed that the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development had, in 2015, signed contracts worth GH¢98 million with 11 other subsidiaries of the Jospong Group of Companies to undertake fumigation exercises across the country when Zoomlion Ghana Limited had already been paid by the district assemblies and the Ministry of Health to do the same job through multiple contracts.
In 2016, a similar contract worth GHS 96 million was again awarded to the Jospong Group but there was no evidence of work done. The police investigated these scandals and submitted dockets to the Attorney-General but nothing came out of the investigation.
Manasseh’s “Robbing the Assemblies” investigation further exposed how the Jospong Group of Companies had inflated the cost of a waste bins contract awarded to it through sole-sourcing by at least GH¢130 million.
The 2020 Auditor-General’s Report recommended the retrieval of GHS 95 million cedis from Zoomlion’s sister company, Sewerage Systems GH. Ltd. The Auditor-General said the government had paid the money to the company without any contractual arrangement.
The government did not retrieve the money but proceeded to pay more to the company.
The Finance Ministry’s response to an RTI request by The Fourth Estate revealed that the Akufo-Addo government had disbursed GH¢156 million from the Sanitation and Pollution Levy imposed on Ghanaians to Sewerage Systems GH. Ltd.
The Auditor-General ordered the Administrator of the DACF, Irene Naa Torshie Addo, to recover the funds which went into waste treatment plant construction by the Sewerage Systems Ghana Limited (SSGL).
SSGL has been receiving the funds since 2016 without any legal backing, the Auditor-General said. However, the payment of GHc 19 million in 2020, being an outstanding amount for the GHS 95 million, triggered an enquiry by the Auditor-General.
For the years 2021 and 2022, even though the company committed similar contractual breaches resulting in financial losses to the state, the A-G failed to quantify the value of the losses.
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