14 November 2017

Namibia: State Jet Engine Covers Blown Off At Ondangwa

THE presidential jet's engine covers were blown off by loose stones in August at the Ondangwa airport because of the worn-out apron and taxiway.

This is contained in a report compiled by attorney general Sacky Shanghala and released to the works ministry on 1 November.

Works minister Alpheus !Naruseb asked Shanghala to compile legal advice on the Ondangwa airport after the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) board had blocked the tender to upgrade the apron and the runway.

The Namibian yesterday reported that Shanghala advised !Naruseb to use his power as a minister and order the NAC to start the repairwork.

Both the apron and the taxiway are supposed to be repaired during phase two of the project which could have started around July last year.

The China State Construction Engineering Corporation, which also worked on phase one of the upgrade, was awarded the tender for phase two for N$211 million.

Tenders for phase one and two were awarded by the previous NAC board and suspended chief executive officer Tamer El-Kallawi.

The current NAC board, however, blocked the tender, arguing that the company had inflated the price by N$52 million.

They also argued that the correct procurement processes were not followed.

Shanghala pointed out that "the conditions of the taxiway and apron were hazardous".

The report said there is "loose debris that can be sucked by planes' engines, and may cause fatal accidents to travellers".

"From the documents submitted further to your correspondence referred to earlier, it is noted that according to the flight log of 28 August 2017, the engine covers of a presidential aircraft were blown off by loose gravel stones due to jet blast of another aircraft that was turning next," the report said.

According to the report, the Ondangwa Airport's licence is due to expire at the end of this month.

"The said licence may not be renewed on account of non-compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards," Shanghala stated.

Despite this conclusion, the NAC said regulators had extended the licence to use the taxiway and the apron, pending repairwork.

NAC spokesperson Nankelo Amupadhi told The Namibian yesterday that they were aware of the condition of the taxiway, and that the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had extended the airport's licence.

"The safety of the passengers is our top priority. The NCAA has flagged it, but for the meantime, the airport has been okayed and is operational," Amupadhi said.

She added that it should be noted that the NCAA does not work in isolation as they also have to make sure that airports comply with ICAO standards before they give or renew a licence.

Amupadhi said as soon as the legal process regarding the questionable phase two tender is concluded, the parastatal can go out and source a contractor through the correct tender procedures.

She noted that the parastatal does not disagree with the works ministry on the repairs, but that the correct procedures should be followed.

Works permanent secretary Willem Goeiemann declined to comment on the condition of the taxiway and apron, nor whether the contractors provided up-to-standard work during phase one.

"We are still discussing the matter internally, so no comment for now," Goeiemann said.

Works deputy minister Sankwasa James Sankwasa also declined to comment on the matter yesterday, although he complained in May about sub-standard and unfinished work done at the Katima Mulilo airport in the Zambezi region.

The Namibian reported that Candino Mining and Construction, owned by Dankie Nkoshi was awarded a N$62 million contract in 2013 to rehabilitate the runway.

The contract included the repair of potholes, and was extended to cater for repairwork at the Katima Mulilo airport.

Dissatisfied with the unfinished work, Sankwasa reportedly said during a tour of the airport that government would need another N$100 million to complete the rehabilitation and renovation work.

He reportedly also questioned why the contractor was paid in full while the project was not completed.

Although the contractors had refuted the deputy minister's claims of sub-standard work, works spokesperson Julius Ngweda was also quoted as saying that while the contractor did what it was contracted to do, the work was sub-standard.

Ngweda further said the contractor took much longer to complete the work than was agreed.

The contractor was awarded the six-months contract in 2013, but completed the work only in 2017.

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