Veterinarians working in a delapidated building are shaking their heads in disbelief as the construction of a N$67 million veterinary laboratory and clinic in Ondangwa has been on hold since 2014 and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) is struggling to find a contractor, after the awarded tenderer pulled out.
The new lab was supposed to become the regional centre of excellence in animal disease control and would improve current efforts to work towards the suppression of animal diseases, like foot and mouth disease (FMD) and rabies, while also improving relationships with current and future trading partners.
The 18-month delay in construction has been criticised by various role players in the animal health industry after MAWF acting permanent secretary Andrew Nehemiah last year confirmed that the ministry is in the final stages of awarding the construction tender to another company, after Tectura Architects – who were initially awarded the tender – pulled out.
The owners of an adjacent plot said the company the MAWF contracted brought the wrong type of sand for the foundation and thus messed up the plot. Then the company apparently just upped and left. Now a different firm is bringing sand to the plot, but there is no signpost stating who is doing what.MAWF head office in Windhoek’s response to New Era’s questions was: “At this moment there is nothing new regarding the construction of the vet lab in Ondangwa. As soon as the ministry receives [news of] new developments we will communicate it to you.”
Initially Nehemia said the delays were caused by a constructor who pulled out in the middle because of some disagreements. “The construction will start as soon as the tender has officially been awarded,” he said.
Nehemiah would, however, not elaborate on the nature of the disagreements, saying it is an internal matter that has already been resolved. Also commenting on the matter, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa last year already said he is very disappointed by the delays in the construction, adding that the facility would have been nearing completion now.
“The delays of construction of the facility are unnecessary and could have been avoided. That is what is wrong with our contractors here [in Namibia], but the construction will get back on track and the country will have a state-of-the-art laboratory that will provide much needed veterinary services to northern regions and Namibia as a whole,” Mutorwa said.
At that stage Tectura Architects managing director Jack Mutua declined to comment, saying he does not have anything new to say about the matter. The construction of the first phase was to start in July 2014, while construction of the whole facility is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.
It is set to permanently change the health status of livestock and cut down response-time to animal health calamities.The laboratory will be the second in the country for detecting and investigating of domestic, wild and aquatic diseases north of the Veterinary Cordon Fence.
The laboratory will be the second fully-fledged facility of its kind in Namibia, with an advanced capacity to undertake serology, biotechnology, molecular diagnostic techniques, microbiology, virology and pathological services. Role players in the animal health sector have stressed the importance of such a lab and clinic, especially in the aftermath of the outbreak of FMD last year that wreaked havoc in the livestock sector and had devastating effects on communal farmers.