… As ministry officials clash with NAC board over project
By Patience Nyangove
CHINESE government-owned Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group is back in the running for the multi-billion dollar Hosea Kutako International Airport expansion tender, amid reports that a war is being fought between the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) board and high-ranking government officials in the Ministry of Works and Transport, over the project.
Confidente is in possession of a letter sent on Tuesday, in which Works and Transport Minister, Alpheus !Naruseb informs NAC board chairperson, Rodgers Kauta, that a Cabinet committee meeting held on 24 May had directed him and Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein, to instruct the parastatal to restart the airport bid, “as a matter of urgency”.
Kauta was further directed that Anhui may also be invited to tender.
Anhui dragged President Hage Geingob to court last year, after the Head of State cancelled the N$7 billion airport tender, which had initially been awarded to the Chinese company.
The court battle eventually ended in the Supreme Court earlier this year, where Geingob was vindicated.
The president had acted on reports of tender irregularities price inflation, bribery and corruption in the tender process.
Confidente also learnt this week that there is bad blood between the NAC and high-ranking Works and Transport officials, who have bypassed the NAC board on two occasions, when they held meetings with the parastatal’s senior management, without the knowledge of the board.
During those two meetings, Confidente is informed, discussions were held about the Ondangwa and Hosea Kutako International airport tenders.
Confidente is also informed that after the senior government officials realised that the board was not dancing to their tune, they decided to sideline it.
“There is complete confusion after Ministry of Works officials decided to bypass the NAC board, once they realised this board was not going to do things outside the book (sic). So far, two meetings have been held between the Ministry of Works’ most senior officials and the NAC management, without calling on the board to attend.
“Some of the issues that have caused the relationship to sour are that these officials had been pressurising the board to hurriedly, and without following proper procedures, award the Hosea Kutako and Ondangwa airport tenders,” a senior official privy to the unfolding battle said this week.
“The board insisted that there was no money for such projects and because of the new Central Public Procurement Board, the NAC now only has the mandate to award contracts that fall within a certain amount, and can’t award multi-billion dollar contracts.
“The board also asked them to put their demands in writing, but they never did so,” the source added.
About two months ago, Anhui, through its Vice-President, Yu Xiaofeng, wrote to NAC Chief Executive Officer, Tamer El-Kallawi, begging the parastatal to initiate fresh negotiations, so it can be awarded the airport contract.
The !Naruseb directive to the NAC to restart the tender process comes after the Cabinet Committee on Overall Policy and Priorities gave the ministry the go-ahead on 24 May, to instruct the parastatal to re-advertise the controversial multi-billion dollar contract.
However, the alleged continuous interference by the Ministry of Works officials, in terms of bypassing the NAC board, is in direct conflict with a High Court judgement last year that included a confirmation that the NAC is the only agent tasked to implement all airports projects in the country.
Geingob and the ministers of finance and works initially lost to Anhui in the High Court, after it challenged the cancellation of the tender in December 2015, before government successfully appealed in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court declared the award of the contract to Anhui unlawful and null and void, and set it aside.
Ministry of Works and Transport Permanent Secretary, Willem Goeiemann, confirmed on Wednesday that !Naruseb had written to the NAC board to re-advertise the tender, and that Anhui will be invited to submit a bid.
He also confirmed to Confidente that he had a meeting with the NAC management, without the board.
“I had a meeting with the NAC management, together with Finance Ministry officials, because you first talk with management, you don’t start with the board.
“The instruction to re-advertise the tender went to management, before the board, and this is not interfering at all. There is no interference. The NAC will do the tender process, and because of the tender threshold, the Central Public Procurement Board will also be involved,” Goeiemann added.
Secretary to Cabinet, George Simataa, refused to comment on the matter.
“Who gave you that letter? Go back to your sources! How did you get that letter? Cabinet doesn’t make such procurement decisions,” Simataa said.
It also emerged earlier this year that the old NAC board had dismissed a bid by a Turkish company to refurbish and upgrade the Hosea Kutako International Airport for N$3 billion, which is less than half the price that Anhui wanted to charge for the same work.
Confidente has established that a few years ago, a Turkish firm, Tasyapi, had expressed its interest to undertake the airport expansion project, which included refurbishment.
The Turkish company indicated that it wanted to operate the airport for 30 years, under what is termed a build, operate and transfer (BOT) model, before handing it back to the Namibian government.
During the 30 years, Tasyapi indicated it would operate and maintain the airport, while it recoups the money it invested in the project. The NAC and treasury would not have to spend a cent on the airport, during the period. However this also meant that no revenue would be coming into NAC’s coffers from Hosea Kutako.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015