8 April 2011

Namibia: Wrangle Over Neckertal Dam

A THREE-BILLION-DOLLAR tender for the construction of the Neckartal Dam in the Karas Region is embroiled in a controversy following an appeal by one of the disqualified tenderers

The Chinese constructor Sinohydro Corporation was disqualified by the Ministry of Agriculture for not having disclosed its "association with Knight Piésold Consulting", which was the consultant for the ministry for the Neckartal Dam Project, as required in the pre-qualification document.

According to the ministry the Chinese outfit had "entered into a joint venture with Knight Piésold Consulting" for a project in Botswana.

"The tenders of Sinohydro Corporation and SCC Neckartal JV are therefore considered to be non-conformant [sic]," the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture wrote in a communication dated February 24 2011 to the Secretary of the Tender Board of Namibia.

Sinohydro in letter dated March 10 and addressed to the Tender Board said they have been "reliably informed" that it did not make the shortlist of the final seven companies "despite scoring the highest evaluation score of 96,3%".

Chairperson of the Tender board and Finance PS Erica Shafudah confirmed that she is dealing with the appeal letter by one of the tenderers while the tender has not even been awarded yet and is only in the pre-qualification stage.

Shafudah said appeal will in all likelihood be at today's Tender Board meeting, but only if the Ministry of Agriculture briefs her and pronounces itself on the appeal letter. Sinohydro in its appeal letter requested the Tender Board to reconsider its disqualification.

Knight Piésold Consulting Namibia is the company that got the contract to oversee the dam project, including adjudicating the tender process.

Agriculture PS Andrew Ndishishi said it was discovered that Sinohydro and Knight Piésold South Africa had a relationship and are in the process of tendering for the construction of a water canal project in Botswana. Another company that was disqualified was Stefanutti, which was also accused of not declaring its relationship with Knight Piésold.

Sinohydro in the letter disputes the claims, stating that it intended to subcontract Knight Piésold should it get the Botswana tender, and that Knight Piésold was not a partner in Sinohydro.

It also stated in the letter that Knight Piésold South Africa is a completely different legal entity from Knight Piésold Namibia. Sinohydro also stated that because there was no legal relationship between the two companies it did not feel the need to disclose an intended relationship.

Ndishishi remains adamant that there was foul play. "They scored the highest because they had inside information," he accused the company. He added that another tenderer even declared its involvement in a corruption scandal in the past.

Ndishishi however denied allegations that he was removing the strongest company to pave the way for companies he was linked to.

"Seven companies are now pre-qualified and it is not true that my friends are there," he said, adding that some companies in which his friends had a stake in have been disqualified and that he was not even part of the adjudication process.

The tendering process for the construction of the Neckartal Dam opened last year and a host of BEE companies are said to have joined forces with larger multinational companies.

Four out of the 15 companies that tendered were Chinese and with Sinohydro disqualified and two other compatriots not scoring above 70, only one Chinese company is in the running for the job among the seven shortlisted in the pre-qualification phase. China Henan lies second after Impregilo, an Italian outfit which scored the highest among the shortlisted seven.

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