25 June 2018

Namibia: Interdict Stops New Era Printing Contract

A PRINTING company that challenged the state-owned New Era Publication Corporation's decision to have its newspapers printed by a rival company scored a win in the Windhoek High Court on Friday, when a judge ordered a stop to the questioned printing deal.

The company Newsprint Namibia, which is a subsidiary of Namibia Media Holdings, challenged New Era Publication Corporation's decision to have its newspapers printed by the company Max Media Printers, which is run by journalist Max Hamata, through an urgent application that was filed in the High Court nearly three weeks ago.

After hearing oral arguments in the matter on Friday, acting judge Collins Parker issued an interdict restraining New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC) from continuing to procure printing services from Max Media Printers without an award of a printing contract having been made as per the Public Procurement Act of 2015.

Max Media Printers, Newsprint Namibia and the company Wordpress Namibia submitted bids in a tender to provide newspaper printing services to NEPC after the tender was advertised during October and November 2017.

Following a tender evaluation process, Newsprint won the contract in January, only for the award to be cancelled on 23 February after Max Media Printers had the tender award reviewed.

Following the review panel's decision, NEPC re-advertised the tender, only for it to be cancelled again on 10 April.

Before the tender was advertised, Max Media Printers had been printing the NEPC-published titles New Era and Kundana since October 2017. That printing contract ended in January 2018.

Acting judge Parker also ordered NEPC to comply with the review panel's directive to start the tender process afresh and directed that his orders would operate with immediate effect.

"[NEPC] is ordered, if it still requires printing services, to comply with the directive of the review panel to the effect that it must procure such services in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act 15 of 2015 and regulations made thereunder," acting judge Parker directed in the interdict that he issued.

Newsprint Namibia's general manager, Ernst Venzke, stated in an affidavit filed at the court that NEPC told bidders on the tender that the company had a right to cancel the tender if the lowest evaluated bid was substantially above the applicable cost estimate and if it was not economically viable to proceed with the bid, as well as if the bidding process did not create or achieve the expected outcome.

According to Venzke, Newsprint "was doubtlessly confident to emerge as the successful tenderer, given the fact that its bid in all material respects was ahead of other bidders".

An evaluation report by an NEPC tender evaluation committee dated 23 March 2018 shows that Newsprint was the recommended bidder before the tender was again cancelled on 10 April.

The report shows that Max Media Printers had the highest bidding prices, asking N$2,39 per copy for the Monday to Thursday editions of New Era, amounting to a cost of N$1,2 million over a two-month period.

Max Media Printers offered to print the Friday edition of the newspaper at a price of N$4,44 per copy, amounting to N$800 000 over a two-month period, while it offered to print the weekly publication Kundana at the cost of N$1,37 a copy.

The report also shows that Newsprint's offered printing costs for New Era's Monday to Thursday editions were at N$2,01 per copy, for a total cost of N$1,02 million over a two-month period.

Newsprint offered to print the Friday edition of New Era for N$3,46 per copy, translating into a total cost of N$622 000 over a period of two months, while it offered to print Kundana for N$1,64 per copy.

The total cost of Max Media Printers' tender bid, with value-added tax included, was N$2,4 million, compared to a total cost of N$1,99 million for Newsprint's bid.

Sisa Namandje represented Newsprint Namibia in its urgent application. NEPC was represented by John Kandara, while Tuhafeni Muhongo represented Max Media Printers.

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