Row over N$7-billion new airport

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Windhoek

The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) and Ministry of Works and Transport have failed to provide a reason for granting the N$7 billion tender to construct a new international airport in Windhoek to a Chinese company, while bypassing a Turkish rival which quoted N$3 billion.

Turkish construction giant TaŞyapi is seething over the award of the tender to a Chinese rival, which quoted N$4 billion more than the Instanbul-based company.

Chinese firm Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation (AFECC) was granted the tender to construct the new airport at a cost of US$478 million (in excess of N$7 billion at current exchange rate), while the Turks quoted US$200 million (about N$3 billion).

What infuriates the Turkish construction outfit are the alleged unethical business practices by the NAC and the works ministry.

Speaking to New Era from Istanbul, Turkey, the chief executive officer of TaŞyapi, Yavuz Haberdar, questioned why the Namibian authorities twice invited his company to Namibia to make presentations if they already had a preferred company in mind.

Haberdar says they first made presentations in 2014 just before the tender was cancelled in July of that year, and were again invited to make another presentation in May this year.

However, they suspected something was amiss when the ministry and NAC started ignoring their subsequent follow-up calls with no reasons given. Haberdar says this was seemingly because the ministry had already decided who would get the tender.

“We are not going to challenge the awarding of the tender … but why were we not given an equal chance if they did not like our [initial] proposals,” says Haberdar.

Works and transport permanent secretary Willem Goeieman did not respond to enquiries by New Era, despite numerous phone calls and messages left on his mobile phone.

NAC has also not responded to specific questions sent, with the spokesperson saying senior staff are not in office this week to respond to questions.

NAC confirmed to The Namibian newspaper last week that the Chinese government-owned firm AFECC received the tender for the construction of a new international airport at a cost of U$478 million.
Haberdar said: “It is awkward and questionable that government pay such an expensive [venture] and not consider financing through a public private partnership.”

TaŞyapi proposed a scenario of build, operate and transfer where it would finance the construction and operate the airport for a period of 30 years before it hands it to government.

The other scenario was of public partnership where it would raise the capital to finance the construction and operate the airport jointly with NAC with the airport’s ownership to be eventually vested with NAC.
Besides raising the financing capital, Haberdar says TaŞyapi was also going to “guarantee flight increase” through separate operator agreements with major international airlines and cargo operators.

This was to ensure airport optimal operations, which were projected at five million passengers per annum.
“We were happy to bring on board other local investors to cater for issues such as business centres, entertainment and hospitality,” he says.

Details and incentives offered by the Chinese, if any, are not known, as secrecy around this national project continues to shield it from the public.

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