9 August 2018

Namibia: Aochamub Ousting Linked to Tenders

THE removal of Albertus Aochamub as acting chief executive of the Namibia Airports Company is linked to tenders, including the N$145 million renovation of the Hosea Kutako International Airport.

Aochamub was unceremoniously removed last week by the NAC board, which publicly stated that they made the change because they believed Aochamub would soon be appointed an ambassador.

However, two people familiar with the matter said there was more to his removal.

The people, who declined to be named, said Aochamub's removal was linked to tenders that are set to be awarded. One of the tenders which is being hotly contested is the N$145 million renovation project of the Hosea Kutako International Airport.

The renovations are meant to be temporary, while extensive upgrades are to be done later.

The Namibian understands that some NAC executives clashed over who should get the N$145 million renovation tender, which closed at the end of June this year.

Sources said the NAC procurement committee disqualified German company Losberger GmbH because it did not meet requirements.

This disqualification, a person familiar with the process said, triggered widespread speculation about who was pushing for tenders.

A source said the process was suddenly halted, and word spread that there was a directive to pause the tender until Aochamub was out of the way.

Following this, the board decided to remove Aochamub, and pay him a golden handshake of N$275 000.

It was immediately announced that Lot Haifidi, the NAC strategic executive for governance, would take over as acting CEO.

The extensive upgrades of the Hosea Kutako International Airport are still on the cards, and could require a loan of more than N$2,4 billion from China.

Companies from France, China and Turkey have approached the NAC regarding the international airport upgrades contract.

People familiar with this matter said some board members had been angered that Aochamub had met private companies without their knowledge, a claim Aochamub has rejected.

The Namibian understands that one of the companies tipped to get the Hosea Kutako International Airport tender was China Harbour Construction Engineering, a Chinese state-owned enterprise that is currently building Namibia's national oil storage facility (for N$6 billion) and the port expansion at Walvis Bay (for N$3 billion).

Aochamub met representatives of China Harbour Construction Engineering last week in Windhoek.

He told The Namibian yesterday that there was nothing wrong with the meetings he had with the companies.

"I have had meetings with several companies that are interested in the construction of a new international airport terminal. The chairman, deputy chair and myself met a couple of those during the presidential state visit to China in Beijing," Aochamub explained.

According to him, NAC managers also met other companies over recent months, including French construction company Bouygues, which constructed the N$3,2 billion Ivato International Airport in Madagascar with World Bank funding.

"We were due to meet Vinci Airports from Italy this week, and also NEC of Japan, which requested to see us. No deals were discussed, but just letting everyone know that they can participate when the bidding process opens," Aochamub stated.

A person briefed about this matter said another lucrative NAC tender which has attracted a lot of interest was the contract to operate the duty-free shop at the Hosea Kutako International Airport.

The duty-free shop allows travellers leaving the country to buy goods without paying taxes.

The concession has been held by Paragon Investment Holdings since 2007, and expired in April this year.

The duty-free concession tender was advertised, and closed at the end of July 2018.

Paragon, which is owned by businessmen Desmond Amunyela and Lazarus Jacobs, wants to keep the duty-free concession, but now have to compete with other bidders.

There is speculation that Paragon could lose the concession because its owners have fallen out of political favour. Amunyela and Jocobs were close to President Hage Geingob at one time, but their relationship has soured.

Sources said most of the Namibian companies that tendered for the duty-free concession have teamed up with international firms.

Namibians have over the years roped in international companies into partnerships on lucrative state contracts, with sometimes negative results for the locals.

For instance, in 2016, the daughters of President Geingob and former President Sam Nujoma accused a British firm of using them to get a N$60 million contract to manage the VIP lounge at the Hosea Kutako International Airport, and then dumping them after getting the contract.

Aochamub's ousting has attracted the attention of several Cabinet members, such as transport minister John Mutorwa.

Mutorwa told New Era this week that the NAC board had not consulted him before booting Aochamub out.

However, an NAC official insisted that Mutorwa was notified through his secretary about the change.

NAC chairperson Rodgers Kauta is said to have responded to Mutorwa on Tuesday this week. Mutorwa yesterday said he had not received Kauta's response.

Kauta was not reachable for comment yesterday, as he was said to be in South Africa on business.

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