FINANCE minister Calle Schlettwein has ordered the Namibia Airports Company to recall the consultants it appointed on an urgent basis, as they were not part of a procurement exemption granted to the parastatal.
Schlettwein wrote to the NAC on 11 October, informing them that they had been granted permission for direct procurement to the tune of N$95 million for the urgent renovation of Hosea Kutako International Airport.
The company, however, went on to acquire the services of architects, as well as engineering and quantity surveying consultants, which the minister said was not part of the exemption.
The parastatal's procurement committee awarded the consultancy contracts to Kerry McNamara Architects as architects, Buhrmann and Partners (Pty) Ltd as project managers, Windhoek Consulting Engineers as project engineers, and Frankle and Partners as quantity surveyors for the project.
The awarding of these contracts prompted suspicion among NAC officials, which then resulted in Schlettwein directing the Public Procurement Unit to inspect the procurement process.
The unit concluded in its inspection report completed on 5 November that the NAC did not comply with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act when they acquired the architecture, engineering and quantity surveying consultancy services.
The report sent to NAC board chairperson Leake Hangala on 9 November said no consultancy services were included in the tender procurement exemption granted to the parastatal last month.
The report recommended that the parastatal cancels the process they followed in procuring the consultancy services, and re-invite bidders to participate.
The unit also recommended that the NAC should keep proper records of the procurement process in terms of the act as this was not done with the contracting of the consultants.
The NAC defended their action to award the consultancy services' contracts in an early October meeting with the unit, saying the Central Procurement Board had given them a waiver "to do the procurement of consultancy services related to alleviating congestion at the Hosea Kutako International Airport, separate from the works procurement process".
The report highlighted some contravention of the Public Procurement Act and Public Procurement Regulations, including that the procurement of the consultancy services was not included in the parastatal's annual procurement plan, as required by Regulation 8. Regulation 8 provides that the procurement unit must prepare an annual procurement plan they intend to carry out during the financial year, which includes services.
The report also pointed out that the procurement waiver which was provided to the unit was not signed by the parastatal's accounting officer to show that the bidding process had been approved, as required by the procurement regulations.
A further irregularity is that no expression of interest was done to invite bidders to submit bids. Bidders had been hand-picked and invited to submit company profiles, despite the Public Procurement Act stating that an expression of interest must be carried out for any procurement with an estimated value above N$5 million. The procurement of the consultancy services, according to the report, also did not comply with section 51 of the Procurement Act which requires a bid opening report. There was no report available, as no bid opening session was carried out.
"The award process does not comply with section 25(4) and 25(5)[Public Procurement Act] - powers and functions of accounting officers. Section 35 - request for proposals, 52(3) - evaluation of bids", the report read.
Hangala yesterday confirmed that he received the inspection report from the finance minister, but that he is not prepared to discuss the matter further in the media.
He was, however, quoted in yesterday's issue of Confidenté as saying while there may have been some technical issues, these have been sorted out, and they are moving forward with the project as it was approved by Cabinet and a Ministry of Finance internal procurement technical committee. Although The Namibian could not reach finance permanent secretary Ericah Shafudah for comment, she was quoted in the same weekly as saying the committee Hangala alluded to had nothing to do with procurement, but was only tasked with looking into the matter of congestion at the airport.