Govt wins multi-billion airport tender case

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Maria Amakali

Windhoek-The government and President Hage Geingob won the legal appeal to have the award of the tender to a Chinese company to upgrade Hosea Kutako airport declared null and void.

In the judgement handed down yesterday, Supreme Court justices Dave Smuts, Peter Shivute and Sylvester Mainga found in favour of the government’s claim that the works ministry’s permanent secretary had no mandate to award, on behalf of Namibia Airports Company (NAC), the multi-billion dollar contract to Anhui Foreign Economic Contruction Group.

The appeal was heard on March 3.

The judgement effectively pitches back to NAC the decision on which company among the shortlisted ones should be considered for the tender.

“The award by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Works and Transport set out in the letter of 03 December 2015 of the tender for the upgrading and expansion of the airport is declared unlawful and null and void and set aside,” declared the judgement.

The justices further ruled that the instruction by the works ministry to NAC “to discontinue all activities relating to the upgrading and expansion of Hosea Kutako International Airport […] is declared invalid and set aside.”

The controversial tender for the construction of the new airport would have cost taxpayers approximately N$7 billion.

The court also found that the award of the tender was not procedural as the Tender Board Act, 1996 had not been followed nor had treasury approval been granted under the State Finance Act.

The award of the tender was clouded with speculations of irregularities on the part of the NAC, as well as bribery running into hundreds of million of dollars and corrupt practices.

It was alleged that more cost-effective bids had been ignored to accommodate those who had paid bribes, while the general scale of expenditure was questioned as well. This forced the head of state on December 22, 2015 to issue a directive to the Minister of Works and Transport to instruct the NAC to discontinue all activities relating to the project.

The government had approached the Supreme Court after the High Court set aside the minister’s decision to direct the discontinuation of all activities relating to the project but declined the government’s counter-application to set aside the actual awarding of the tender to Anhui.

The applicants in the matter were the President of the Republic of Namibia, Minister of Finance and the Minister of Works and Transport represented by lawyer Sisa Namadje.

The respondents in the case were Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group and the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Works and Transport, represented by Advocate Nazeer Cassim on instructions from Tjombe-Elago law firm.

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