By Economic Desk
A BUSINESS syndicate is cutting Namport out of a plan to control the port of Walvis Bay, as well as world class infrastructure that must eventually unlock the futuristic transport throat with enormous potential for landlocked countries on the continent.
According to the whistleblowers that reached out from the Namibian pavilion at the Dubai Expo, there is a prospect looming that Namibia might again be faced into an unpleasant reality of officials of the Public Service being abused to camouflage corruption as was the case with the Fishrot scandal.
Documents reveal that DP World, a Dubai-owned port operator, under the aegis of Sultan Bin Sulayem, who enjoyed good relations with former and retired Transport Executive Director, Willem Goeimann, wants to gain control of the newly constructed N$4.2 billion Walvis Bay container terminal through a direct agreement for a period of 50 years.
DP World’s strategy included extending unwarranted generosity to several Namibian decision makers, some of whom were seemingly completely oblivious of the intention of their Dubai hosts that want to avoid a transparent competitive process that would most probably undercut their chances of controlling this strategic asset.
To bypass Namibia’s procurement laws and justify a direct agreement, DP World’s agents allegedly pushed for a largely farcical Government-to-Government agreement between UAE and Namibia, which is now revealed as a mere smokescreen.
A signed MOU with Nara Namib to develop a Free Economic Zone in Walvis Bay drew attention to the real strategy to gain control over processes.
Notwithstanding their strategy, the scheme hit an unexpected bump in the road when a number of government officials and members of the Board of Directors of Namport turned down DP World’s direct agreement proposal.
They considered it dangerous and inimical to the Namibian national interest.
Following the rejection of DP World’s direct agreement proposal, the expectation from all stakeholders, both local and international, was that the Government of Namibia would revert to the due process by instituting a fair and transparent tender process to award the concession of the strategic Walvis Bay Container Terminal.
Instead, it was Sulayem, the senior management of DP World, and their local associates that quickly adapted to the new situation and came up with a new plan to achieve the original agenda of total control locking Namport and the government out of their own asset.
Under the pretext of a transparent process facilitated by the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB) and run by CEO Nangula Uaandja, invitations for the Expressions of Interest (EOI) were sent out to a large number of potential operators, selected by NIPDB.
Several sources and documents from the Dubai whistleblowers group disclosed that DP World managed to influence and manipulate the evaluation criteria in such a manner that it will disqualify all other offers to save theirs and those of sister companies.
They simply managed to get NIPDB to combine three different components, namely container terminal, free zone and a custom’s single window, which in reality requires completely different skills and criteria, under the fancy marketing name of “Walvis Bay Industrial Development Initiative (WIDI).”
Combining these components will most likely prove detrimental to the country and its inclusive development agenda.
It now seems that the process was structured in such a way that only the Government of Dubai, which owns DP World, Jebel Ali Free Zone and the Dubai customs, can comply with the selection and evaluation criteria.
All the other companies were only invited to legitimise the process.
Alarmingly, NIPDB, which has ultimate control over the process, will be able to evaluate the proposals against the selected criteria, eliminate the rest of the companies and enter into direct negotiations with DP World.
It is seen as illegal and might be challenged in courts to the embarrassment of the Government hot on the heels of the Fishrot-saga.
It is also seen as a disregard and contravention of the laws of Namibia, managing Namport, which according to the Namibian Ports Authority Act, 1994 is the only authority that has jurisdiction over the port of Walvis Bay.
Namport is excluded in the process.
Sources close to Namport intimated that it had been engaging a number of potential partners who were prepared to offer much better terms than DP World, yet their hands are tied as a result of the processes that are being facilitated by NIPDB.
As a result, the road remains clear, unless Cabinet intervenes like it did in the Chinese Airport Contrat.
Institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank, which financed the construction of the container terminal, should, according to the whistleblowers, step in and make sure that their assistance and contributions are serving the people of Namibia.