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Chinese airport tender in High Court

Chinese airport tender in High Court

THE newly appointed board of the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) on Monday lodged an application in the High Court to set aside a decision made in 2016 by the previous board to award a N$200 million contract to China State Engineering Corporation for the construction of phase two of the Ondangwa Airport.

China State Engineering Corporation was appointed as the main contractor for the Ondangwa Airport Runway Rehabilitation phase 2, under the administration of then NAC CEO, Tamar El-Kallawi, and Head of Engineering, Courage Silombela, who the new board say acted dubiously in the awarding of the tender. Advocate Rafik Bhana, who represents NAC, argued that Silombela gave misrepresentations to the board by manipulating the figures. According to him, the board at the time did not comply with the Procurement Act and as such, the decision should be set aside.

“The misrepresentations by Silombela to the board had a material effect on the board’s decision. The contract is in contravention of the procurement policies and at a price that is not based on any market related price. If this court does not grant a remedy in this case, it will allow China State to benefit financially from an unlawful contract,”

Bhana said. An initial N$168 million was estimated for the entire construction process, but China State changed its original quote due to alleged incomplete quotations from subcontractors and suppliers.  The money was then increased to N$211 million, which Bhana argued was done without proper explanation. The Chinese-owned company is now claiming that they have suffered financial prejudice for.

In addition, they reportedly provided a performance guarantee in the amount of more than N$20 million to NAC, a claim that NAC says is a fabrication of evidence.

Bhana is arguing that Silombela presented to the board that the required increment was 1.5%, when in actual fact it was 26%. Silombela, who was in charge of projects at NAC, misrepresented to the board that the tender need not be public or subject to a competitive bid.

“He was doing everything to sugarcoat the contract and force it through the improper channels of NAC and this was a staggering misrepresentation given the size and magnitude of the project and the fact that NAC was the custodian of public funds. The NAC cannot be forced to enter into business with China State, given the circumstances. We see all kinds of manipulations on the bill,”

Bhana argued.

It is also NAC’s application that Acting CEO, Lot Haifidi’s, affidavit be ruled admissible and in support of the urgent application.

El-Kallawi and Silombela were suspended late last year. Silombela faces 17 charges, including fraud. The matter is before Judge Thomas Masuku, who is yet to deliver judgement.

 

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