By Elvis Muraranganda
THE cash-strapped government, through the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, is set to fork out a total of N$79 million for security border management system upgrades, while industry experts have claimed that the actual work is only worth N$30 million.
This comes after ICT firm, Syntex Information Technologies (Pty) Ltd, which initially installed the system in 2008, was asked by the ministry to do software and hardware upgrades, which could possibly include e-gates, e-passports, biometric fingerprint reading devices, facial recognition and other modern-day security features.
The company had initially quoted the ministry about N$70 million in August 2015 for the upgrades, which had to be implemented over a period of nine months.
It later increased the price to N$79 million, after the ministry requested them to extend the project for another 18 months, until September 2017.
Syntex said that this is because government failed to honour its financial obligations, by failing to pay on time.
It further added that fluctuation in the Namibian dollar to euro exchange rate had impacted on the price, because the company procures software and hardware from Europe.
There were also claims this week that the ministry’s Commissioner for Refugees, Likius Valombola, who doubles as its financial advisor, is advising the ministry to pay the inflated amount.
Sources said that Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration Permanent Secretary, Patrick Nandago had appointed Valombola, who is only a qualified teacher, as a financial advisor, against the advice of the Public Service Commission, and without seeking better expertise.
“The position of financial advisor is never advertised. He is doing his job very well. These are just people trying to create instability in the institution. I want you to tell the names of the people who are giving you this information,” Nandago said.
Confidente can also reveal that the bid was not put out to public tender, which could have contained the pricing.
Home Affairs said this week that work on national security systems are never put out on open tender.
Industry experts, however, said that the upgrades involved are actually valued around N$30 million, but this was rubbished by Syntex, who stressed that “apples should be compared with apples”.
Syntex is owned by Phillip Hikumwah and Linus Amulungu.
Hikumwah said that according to the contract they entered into with the ministry on 17 August 2015, the company was tasked with obtaining licensed programs, designated equipment, and customising them to meet Namibian standards.
The company had to further integrate the ministry’s databases to that of other security and border control organisations such Interpol, Customs and the police.
The contract further states that government had to pay N$21 million (30 percent) of the N$70 million, within 30 business days upon the supply and delivery of the project charter, while another N$21 million was to have been paid upon delivery of the needed hardware.
Upon delivery of the business blueprint and system administration and user manual to the ministry, government is under contractual obligation to deposit N$3.5 million into the Syntex bank account.
Another N$3.5 million would be payable after the company trains a maximum of 35 of the ministry’s staff members, in the operation and management of the system, who will in turn train other home affairs employees.
This would leave balance of N$21 million, which is to be paid upon the successful acceptance of the system, following testing.
A total of N$2.1 million of this will be paid over a month after the expiration of the contract period.
However, this did not happen, at least according to Hikumwah, who also admitted they had charged government “a higher price”, before settling on the N$70 million.
“We delivered in November and December 2015, as well as in January 2016. We delivered, but we did not receive a single cent from the ministry. It took us over one year for us to get the first payment,” explained Hikumwah.
He said despite the fact that government had launched the system in August 2016, it did not make any single payment, as stipulated in the original nine-month contract period.
When Syntex was asked to extend the contract period by another 18 months, it decided to charge 12 percent, which is close to N$9 million.
“Should I still keep the same price that I set nine months ago? We had to top up licenses and there are licence fees, because this is international software.”
He said at the time that government asked Syntex to stay on longer they had implemented about 68 percent of the work, as stipulated in the contract
“Even now, I am negotiating with the government, which wants to only pay N$4 million extra and not the N$9 million. This is all about negotiating.”
According to insiders, government has already paid N$42 million over to Syntex, and there is a push for another N$20 million to be transferred within the coming weeks. There were also claims that the company had done any of the upgrades, but has only produced a blueprint document.
Home Affairs and Immigration Minister, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, said that she was in the dark regarding the inflated price, but confirmed that there were payment delays, due to budget cuts and other austerity measures introduced by the Ministry of Finance, in a bid to curb public expenditure.
Nandago, who signed the contract on behalf of the ministry, initially refused to comment, but later said that the figure had increased because of inflation and the exchange rate.
“These goods are sourced outside the country. Our border posts have also increased, and we had to deploy facilities there, which all use new technology,” he said.
Asked whether the ministry did market research before identifying Syntex, Nandago said: “We did a price comparison before we took the decision.”
Valombola explained that he is only assisting, after being asked by Nandago to step in.
“This is jealousy and envy. The job needed someone who is fully conversant with the setup of the ministry. I was the project manager of the turnaround strategy of the ministry,” Valombola explained.
Valombola further denied any connection to Syntex or the agreement between the ministry and the company.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015