29 January 2013

Namibia: Lawsuit After Losing Out On N$60 Million Tender

THE businessman who lost out on the controversial N$60 million tender for upgrading the defunct railway between Lüderitz and Aus is consulting his lawyers on whether to file a lawsuit against the authorities.

The Namibian reported last week that the tender was withdrawn by the Tender Board after "irregularities were picked up by the Ministry of Works during the evaluation process of the tender and these were presented to the board".

"We are consulting our legal team in order to decide the way forward," said Veino Nghipondoka, the owner of Profile Investment, the company that had been awarded the job.

The chairperson of the Tender Board, Finance Permanent Secretary Ericah Shafudah, could not go into the specifics of the irregularities found, "because there is a legal challenge that our lawyers are busy with".

The tender was for upgrading the Aus-Lüderitz railway line, for which the successful bidder had to procure and deliver rails.

Nghipondoka suggested last year that they would take legal action if the tender was withdrawn, but it seems that he is yet to decide whether to take the bold step or not.

He said on Friday that he had nothing to do with the biases of the consultants because they were not appointed by him.

"These people don't know what they are doing. They have hidden agendas," he said.

Nghipondoka also accused the ministry of works of operating based on "hearsay".

The ministry initially recommended to the Tender Board that a joint venture between Profile Investments and Voestalpine-Vae SA be awarded the N$62 million job.

However after close scrutiny, the ministry discovered that there was a conflict of interest, since the consultant appointed by the Ministry of Works to the project was also the principal agent for D&M, which Profile-Vae SA had subcontracted to do some of the work. The consultant had allegedly designed the tender in such a way as to favour Profile-Vae.

The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works, Peter Mwatile, recently denied allegations that he had abused his power as permanent secretary by stopping the tender, stating that he had to make sure the work was done properly.

"The consultant of the tender, K&A Partnership Consulting Engineers, represented by M [Michael] Rumsey whose firm is also the principal agent of D&M Rail Construction, is regarded as biased or in conflict of interest," Mwatile wrote to the Tender Board last year.

Profile-VAE appointed D&M Rail Construction to deliver the rails. D&M is owned by businessmen John Walenga and James Hatuikulipi. Walenga was also a part owner of Profile Investment until 2010. D&M was last year in the news after it emerged that it was favoured by the Ministry of Works for railway contracts ahead of TransNamib.

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