The US$150COVID-19 test per a traveller through the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) in Accra, is turning out to be a retirement deal cooked by President, Akufo-Addo for his cousin; Professor William Kwabena Ampofo, who until recently was the Head of Virology at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research.
The Herald's investigations, have confirmed that Prof. Ampofo, on July 31, 2020 retired from Noguchi, however, he was back to work as a contract staff for a year.
His position as the head of virology has since been taken over by one John Odoom.
Surprisingly, before his retirement, same Prof. Ampofo, had been appointed as the Coordinator of the National Laboratory Network for COVID-19 Testing (NMIMR) by the Akufo-Addo government in an arrangement which The Herald is still reviewing, but said to be for 5-years through the Ministry of Health.
Professor Ampofo, is identified as the Tutuohene of Akyem Abuakwa and a first cousin of President Akufo-Addo. The two share the same maternal grandparents; the Ofori-Attas from Kyebi in the Eastern Region.
It was in his capacity as the head of National Laboratory Network for COVID-19 Testing that he gave the green light to unlicensed private company; Frontiers Healthcare Service an offshore company, to run the coronavirus test at Kotoka for US$150 per a person.
Frontiers Healthcare Service, has been linked to a Nigerian; Benedict Peters, mentioned as a friend of President Akufo-Addo.
Prof. Ampofo, has stirred trouble at the medical facility for misusing human resources in a deal which he reportedly signed for and on behalf of Noguchi, without the knowledge of his superiors.
The arrangement is reaping Ghanaians and others hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars for running the test at Kotoka, without going through any competitive bidding process and certification.
Frontier, got the Kotoka job just three months after its incorporation on June 3, 2020 with registration number: CS079792020 by name "Frontiers Healthcare Services".
It has no track record in the field of work, and reports are that, the network will be making a whopping US$30 million from now till Christmas with 2000 travellers leaving or arriving through Kotoka and paying US$150 per a test.
While Benedict Peter is mentioned as fugitive who since 2017, has been running from the dreaded Nigerian's Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) after declaring him wanted in respect of crimes they claim he committed together with the ex-Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Maudeke, Prof. Ampofo, is accused of deploying the human resources of Noguchi to work for Frontiers Healthcare Service, without any remuneration to them and without any financial benefit to the research facility.
Asides the issues of nepotism and favouritism, the Frontiers Healthcare Service's operation at the Airport, has since been embroiled in matters ranging from operating without the requisite regulatory licences, extortion, lack of staff, tax avoidance among others.
Some of these issues, have irked the policy research and advocacy group, IMANI Ghana, and they have in a statement issued on Monday, called for immediate steps to address.
IMANI, had in a statement, said that Frontiers to operating illegally, as it has not been licensed by the Health Institutions & Facilities per Act of 2011 (Act 829). Additionally, the Frontiers Healthcare, was discovered as offshore company given preferential treatment by state institutions mandated to ensure its regulation and not paying tax in Ghana.
IMANI Ghana's statement dated Monday, September 21, 2020, said it has discovered that Frontier is "owned by a labyrinthine maze of companies in Ghana and beneficially controlled from the notorious tax haven of the Island of Dominica".
It said "our checks reveal that at the time that Professor Ampofo oversaw the supposed validation processes for Frontiers Healthcare to begin making money, these approvals had not been secured. As we understand the situation, moonlighting personnel from Noguchi have continued to sustain the Frontiers Healthcare operation".
According to IMANI, "Frontiers Healthcare furthermore did not have the personnel and other prerequisites that would have allowed HEFRA approvals anyway. The fact that it was operating an FDA-certified medical device would not, per our checks, be sufficient in this regard, since the overall protocols, personnel and health & safety regime goes beyond medical device certification".
"More alarmingly, our sources are adamant that a "globally novel" biomedical intervention, as the Frontiers Healthcare product has been billed, cannot be used on humans without the approval of the Ethical Review authorities at the institution", the research and advocacy group cried in the statement it titled "IMANI Alert: Noguchi, Professor Ampofo & Frontier Healthcare: Moonlighting, Tax Avoidance or PPP?
IMANI strongly advocates that "Noguchi immediately begins to take steps to regularise the relationship between its Department of Virology and Frontiers Healthcare Services, so that the institution itself benefits directly for the use of its personnel and expertise in this biomedical collaboration, however styled".
The policy research organisation also wants a "proper ethical approvals and regulatory licensing be pursued immediately to ensure that the activities of Frontier Healthcare Services are brought in line with the proper regime of excellence that Noguchi's local and international partners expect of it".
It added that "HEFRA, the Ministry of Health and Noguchi individually and jointly tell Ghanaians, beginning with their own staff, what informed the exemptions to standard policy under which a 3-month company is being allowed to operate licensed and regulated services, whilst regulators continue to harass longstanding, law-abiding, companies in the health sector for far minor infractions".
IMANI revealed how it had received "worrying complaints from Noguchi scientists and others urging us to "publicise their grievances" over this matter as they cannot do so themselves for fear of retribution".
The Herald late yesterday, picked up information that staff of Noguchi working with Frontiers, were given bank forms from Atlantic Bank to open account with the bank, although there are contract between them and Frontiers detailing what the rules of their engagements.
As of the time of going to press, The Herald picked up information that Frontiers has through KPMG acting as its Human Resources unit has demanded that the Noguchi staff furnish it with their CVs. Its unclear if the company want to total absorb all staff of Noguchi.
Published below is a detailed report on Frontiers Healthcare Services, showing letters and pictures of President Akufo-Addo in hearty pose with people connected to the company.
The Ministry of Health which had had one of the Deputy Ministers; Dr. Bernard Oko-Boye speaking to on the matter of the test at the airport, is yet to make any pronouncement on the matter.
Interestingly, Dr. Oko-Boye, who doubles as Member of Parliament (MP) for the Ledzokuku Constituency in the Greater Accra Region on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), has been mentioned as a regular visitor to that Frontiers' offices which is behind the 37 Military Hospital known as Aurora Apartments.
It was from these apartment buildings number about 4 that, the Nigerian; Benedict Peters, started test running Frontiers, while waiting for President Akufo-Addo, to open the borders to enable Ghanaians and other travels into the country.
More to come!