28 August 2012

Namibia: Neckartal Controversies Continue

ANOTHER setback has hit the Neckartal Dam tender after the Tender Board sent the documents back to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Some permanent secretaries on the Tender Board argued for the inclusion of more companies qualifying to construct this multi-billion-dollar dam in southern Namibia.

Even the arrangement of a special Tender Board meeting, which took place last Tuesday, with only the Neckartal tender on its agenda, could not prevent another delay in the process.

It seems that it is driving in the same direction as the first round of bids submitted to the Tender Board in December last year, which is still a subject of investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

During the first round the Permanent Secretary of the National Planning Commission, Andries Leevi-Hungamo, was fighting for the awarding of the tender to China Henan International Group, while the then Agriculture, Water and Forestry Permanent Secretary, Andrew Ndishishi, was of the opinion that the Italian company Impregilo SPA would be a better choice.

This forced the Agriculture Ministry to re-advertise the tender and 23 companies from all over the world tendered for the pre-qualification phase, but this time China Henan International Group was not one of the bidders, while the Italian company again submitted a bid.

However, six other Chinese companies were among the bidders, while five South African, two Italian, two Portuguese, one Moroccan, Russian, Indian and a Namibian company also submitted their tenders.

During the first round last year, the Ministry of Agriculture shortlisted five companies, while this time, only three companies were on the shortlist.

The chairperson of the Tender Board, Ericah Shafudah, confirmed that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has to resubmit the pre-qualification tender of the Neckartal Dam on September 7. This would mean another two weeks' delay and with the expected arguments surrounding this tender, it is clear that the construction of the dam will only start next year.

"I have never seen so much interest in a tender as is the case with the Neckartal project. It seems that some of the permanent secretaries are only interested in the shortlisting of certain companies," one of the Tender Board members told The Namibian.

The Permanent Secretary of Agriculture, Joseph Iita, is adamant that the ministry had issued the Tender Board with all requirements for the tender, but confirmed that it has been referred back to the ministry.

"I am not handling the tender on my own. The Deputy Permanent Secretary, Anna Shiweda, is the chairperson of the Tender Committee in the ministry and we are assisted by the financial advisor. The meeting that was supposed to take about 30 minutes dragged on for more than three hours with no solution in sight."

Iita said the ministry cannot be blamed for the delay in awarding the tender as it had waited about three months for a legal opinion from the Office of the Attorney General, and now, no agreement could be reached with the pre-qualification for the tender.

Shafudah told The Namibian that the Tender Board is seeking clarification on the evaluation process and that only three bidders were shortlisted.

However, Iita said: "If a company does not qualify, then it cannot be shortlisted but we will again look at the evaluation process."

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