By Spy Uganda Investigations Team
Kampala: Few days ago, one of the dailies carried a story in which they indicated that the Uganda Government turned down an offer of 8million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by ‘a good samaritan’ from China. Mr. Ruan Wenbing, a filthy rich Chinese International businessman, through his Ugandan representatives ably identified as Alto Advocates, wrote to Ministry of Health PS Diana Atwine on June 11 2021 informing her of their client’s offer to the Uganda Government, to which Diana Atwine replied in the negative, on the advice of the MoH technical team, and the cabinet resolution which barred buying vaccines from private firms.
The story also seemed to suggest that Ministry of Health permanent secretary (PS) Dr.Diana Atwine, for selfish interests, foiled the process and denied Uganda an opportunity to have the free vaccine.
“RE: REQUEST TO SUPPLY OF COVID-19 VACCINES BY TECHNO INVESTMENTS UGANDA LTD
WE act for and on behalf of Mr. Ruan Wenbing hereinafter referred to as “Our Client” on whose request we address you as follows; Our client is a citizen of China under Passport No. E830478…, a resident of Uganda, under Certificate of Residence No. CR000…. Our client has through his company Techno Investments Uganda Limited managed to source 8,000,000 dozes of the Sinopharm covid-19 vaccines from China through the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs,” read part of the proposal from the Chinese tycoon via his lawyers. On getting this, Dr.Atwine’s response was simple and precise; “Not possible currently,” she wrote on their copy as she waited for a cabinet decision since they had received more than 100 requests from other entities rooting for similar deals.
However, Spy Uganda, after spending four days clandestinely investigating the matter, landed on the following 7 reasons why Uganda declined to take similar offers. Not only from the Chinese tycoon but hundreds of such;
- First of all, when the country was hit by the Covid-19 scourge, around July 2020, a team of experts, without PS Atwine was created for technical advice. This nine-member committee, code-named ‘Vaccine Acquisition Committee’ is actually headed by the Director-General Health Services Dr. Henry G Mwebesa as its chairperson. Others on the committee include; William Musubire (principal Vaccines Officer-NMS), Prof.David Serwadda (C/P Vaccine Advisory Committee), William Ndolerire (MoFPED Rep), Jimmy Ameny (procurement Specialist-UNEPI & GAVI), Prof.Bazeyo William (VAC member and senior physician), Christopher Gashirabake (Dept. Solicitor General), Dr.Driwale Alfred (Programmes manager-UNEPI) and Dr.Adonia Ayebare (Uganda’s permanent representative to the UN and Vaccine Advisory Committee member. So when these hundreds of offers came to the PS, she presented them to the cabinet and the cabinet passed them unto to this committee. The committee then returned with recommendations to the cabinet, of which one of them was a ‘stern warning’ against buying from ‘street hawkers’, because nowhere in the world has any Government bought vaccines from middles men;
- On the advice of VAC, Cabinet resolved that Government will not engage private suppliers of vaccines like tycoon Ruan Wenbing, but instead get supplies from the COVAX facility via African Union (AU). Cabinet was also guided that PPDA law doesn’t allow direct procurement of vaccines.
- VAC advised the Government that vaccines all over Africa were direct to be procured by COVAX via AU.
- Also important to note is that, although Mr.Wenbing offered 8m doses vaccine free but attached a $3 per dose as shipping, handling and storage costs, they didn’t indicate who would pay insurance, no-fault compensation scheme (NFCS) among others, yet if these were to be incurred by Government, then the cost would shoot to more than $5.5, and yet COVAX facility was supplying at $5.5 per dose with all risks covered.
- In an exclusive interview with Jimmy Ameny, procurement specialist working with GAVI under MoH, he explained that Mr.Wenbing’s representatives indicated that they would ship in the vaccines using water transport yet the only recommended means of transport for vaccines and medicines is by air due to their conditionalities in temperature observation, handling and shelve time. “We assessed the risks of buying from private firms as opposed to COVAX under AU. We also looked at the means of transport and the risks involved. What about if you buy a fake vaccine from a private firm? Because we’ve known Techno to be dealing in phones and phones accessories, this is the same company that was now proposing to supply us vaccines, if you were in my shoes, would you recommend it? He asked. But also, in their document, they were only mentioning Sinopharm as their source of the vaccine, but they attached no proof to indicate that indeed Sinopharm was the source, so what if they supply you fake drugs and Sinopharm distances self from responsibility,” argued Ameny.
- Sinopharm manufactures vaccines from various countries, but each country must get its own licensing approval, even when the mother company is one, which is China. So when Mr.Wenbing was proposing he was supposed to disclose the country of origin of the vaccine and attach accompanying paperwork, that’s according to the procurement expert from MoH Mr.Jimmy Ameny.
- But very finally, Mr.Wenbing talks of supplying Uganda this vaccine at a very ‘good rate’ of just $3 per dose, the question to this investigator finally,was, ‘has he or anyone else supplied to any other country at the same rate?, if no,then why Uganda?. So this investigator went on the vaccine world market and what we discovered was the final nail in the coffin! Sinopharm itself, or its agents anywhere in the world have never supplied covid-19 vaccine at such a cost, the lowest they’ve ever gone is $15 per dose. Infact, their cost is between $15-35 per dose!
So if the manufacturer himself can’t sell it at $3 per dose on the world market, then where does the middle man get it that cheap? So, was it a genuine vaccine? If yes, then, was there a hidden actual price that would be revealed at a later stage, probably after the initial deposit of the total amount due and therefore the procurement specialist nipped a bird in the mud!? Your guess is as good as mine.
By the way, in all those processes above, Dr.Diana Atwine’s expertise was, unfortunately, not required. It was purely handled by the nine-member VAC committee and the cabinet, that’s according to our investigations and the evidence of cabinet minutes that’s in our hands, which we can’t attach here for obvious reasons.
But Who’s Mr.Ruan Wenbing?
Ruan Wenbing is a filthy rich Chinese tycoon living both in China and Uganda under residence Certificate No.CR 0000…
Ruan is brother to China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. He among others deals in phones and their accessories worldwide. Here in Uganda, he runs over nine (9) well established multi-billion companies, among them, Techno Investments Uganda Ltd, the official importers of Techno phones and accessories in Uganda. The Chinese businessman is also currently establishing an Industrial park in Nakifuma, Mukono District called Orient Industrial Park where he plans to start assembling a number of products. His lawyers in Uganda handling all his works are Alto Advocates located on Plot 14 Muwafu road, Ministers’ Village-Ntinda, Kampala.