By Petronella Sibeene
Local contractors in the road maintenance and construction sector accuse the Government of contravening tender procedures by awarding the bulk of tenders to foreign firms especially Chinese companies, who have virtually taken over the industry.
Further accusations are that some key officials in the Government team up with Chinese nationals to form companies and thereby obtain tenders on behalf of their companies in the construction sector.
Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Joel Kaapanda, told New Era yesterday that plans are underway to call a meeting with the Ministry of Labour and representatives in the construction industry to discuss the matter.
“It seems there is somebody contravening the law out there,” the minister said.
He added that a council for the construction industry will soon be launched with the mandate to regulate operations within the sector, screen the awarding of tenders and ensure laid down procedures and regulations are adhered to.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry together with the Ministry of Finance and other stakeholders are also in the process of reviewing the tender procedures, the minister added.
Meanwhile, lack of support on small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in the road maintenance and construction sector in Namibia has created a hostile environment that has led to these operators stunting in growth.
This was revealed at yesterday’s workshop on SMMEs and the challenges they face.
Kaapanda said the workshop was aimed at exploring ways that will enable SMMEs become viable and contribute meaningfully to the country’s economy.
The minister said the Government, which should have spearheaded growth in this sector seems to have overlooked that role.
But yesterday he stressed that, “as the Government we want to come forward and commit ourselves to you as SMMEs.”
Doing so, the minister believes, would strengthen the link between financing institutions and stakeholders or players in this sector.
Currently, most operators in the sector cannot compete meaningfully due to lack of resources.
“The Government, financial institutions, Roads Authority and all stakeholders need to address the sustainability of small sectors,” the minister said.
Kaapanda bemoaned the lack of support from line ministries in labour-related projects adding that this has contributed to lack of employment creation for young Namibians.
While development partners such as GTZ and InWent have played a pivotal role in skill development, the minister said more training in tendering is needed.
Further, skill development without supporting resources would not allow players in the sector to thrive.
“We want to see you being empowered especially the formerly disadvantaged.
We want to see equity in resource distribution,” the minister emphasised.
Kaapanda said although absolute equity might not be achieved now, there is need to mitigate the situation by looking at policies in place.
“We need to work together as stakeholders in a country that aspires for growth,” he added.
The one-day meeting also reviewed the Roads Authority’s draft policy paper on the development of SMMEs in the road maintenance and construction sector.
Issues discussed in the document included unbundling of contracts, preference of previously disadvantaged individuals, training, mentoring of SMMEs by larger contractors, guaranteeing of works to SMMEs and labour-based projects.
The chief executive officer of Development Bank of Namibia (DBN), David Nuyoma, the German Ambassador to Namibia, Arne Freiherr von Kittlitz, and Roads Authority chief executive officer, Erastus Ikela and small businesses, attended the meeting.