25 April 2012

Namibia: Another Neckartal Disaster Feared

WITH the second attempt to get the multimillion-dollar Neckartal Dam project off the ground, a total of 23 companies from all corners of the world have tendered for the pre-qualification for the construction of the dam, which was plunged into controversy towards the end of last year.

In the meantime the Anti-Corruption Commission continues with its investigation into that controversy when no agreement could be reached on which company should do the work, which was estimated at more than N$3 billion at that stage.

Allegations of corruption were levelled against some permanent secretaries, who form part of the Tender Board, for receiving kickbacks by pushing for the tender to be allocated either to the Chinese company China Henan International Corporation, or the Italian company Impregilo S.P.A.

A decision was taken that the tender should be re-advertised and the closing date was on Tuesday with six Chinese, five South African, two Italian including Impregilo S.P.A, two Portuguese, one Moroccan, Russian and Indian companies submitting bids.

Only one Namibian company, Grinaker/LTA Namibia, tendered, while two others with joint ventures indicated their interest.

The scope of the work includes that the flow of the Fish River be diverted by a reinforced concrete culvert structure through the dam wall with upstream earth/rock-fill coffer dams. Outlet works located on the left river bank consisting among others of a dry well multi-level intake tower 74,5m high with a control house above and a bottom outlet with two 3m diameter steel pipes with hydraulically operated steel valves to be able to release up to 120 cubic meters per second from the dam sleeve values. Other work includes a turbine room for two mini hydro-power units, a roller compacted concrete dam approximately 520m long and 67,5m high at full level and a pumping station with 8km long steel pipeline to a holding dam.

Agriculture Permanent Secretary Andrew Ndishishi told The Namibian that the shortlisting of capable companies will be completed by the middle of next month after which the Tender Board will request them to finally tender for the construction of the dam, which will now include the money to be spent and when they envisage to complete the project.

"We want the tendering process to be completed by September this year and with the shortlisting we are also making use of the consultancy firm Knight Piesold," Ndishishi said.

Finance Deputy Minister Calle Schlettwein is of the opinion that the Tender Board is not fully equipped to evaluate a complex project such as the construction of the Neckartal Dam.

He said the Board should be assisted by a panel of experts and pointed out that the Act provides for the establishment of committees that can assist with the tendering process.

"A team of experts is a necessity to give justice to deal with the process properly. The Tender Board needs the technical and financial experts. We cannot afford to make another mistake."

In the meantime the director of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Paulus Noa, has confirmed that his office is still continuing with an investigation on what went wrong during the first tendering process for the Neckartal Dam.

He said some of the permanent secretaries were approached to provide explanations but that does not mean that they are guilty of any form of corruption.

"We are looking at allegations about both China Henan International Corporation and Impregilo to determine if there is any substance in media reports that surfaced with the initial tendering process. Only once we have completed the investigation we will be in a position to determine if any corrupt practices were involved," said Noa.

Unconfirmed reports said some people, including permanent secretaries, have received kickbacks of around N$2 million from at least two leading companies to help them get the contract.

The dam will supply water to a new 5 000-hectare irrigation scheme, but the development of this scheme is excluded from this contract.

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