High Court rules on NEPC printing job

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Roland Routh

WINDHOEK – The Windhoek High Court on Friday ordered New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC) to adjudicate on a printing tender it had advertised for applications earlier this year, instead of continuing to print its newspapers with one of the applicants without an award being made.

Newsprint Namibia brought an urgent application seeking an order that NEPC should stop printing its newspapers New Era and Kundana with Max Media Holdings, or any other printing company, until an award is made for the printing tender in accordance with the Public Procurement Act, 15 of 2015.

They also asked the judge to direct that NEPC, if it still requires printing services, comply with the directives of the review panel to the effect that it must procure such services in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act and its regulations.

Newsprint also asked for costs of the suit from any party that opposes the application. All of Newsprint’s prayers were granted by Acting High Court Judge Collins Parker.

In its application Newsprint argues that after NEPC issued a tender for printing the New Era and Kundana newspapers, such tender was awarded to Newsprint, but was later cancelled and NEPC instead entered into an agreement with Max Media Holdings to print the newspapers.

This was after Max Media Holding approached the Procurement Board Review Panel, which terminated the tender altogether and issued a directive that should NEPC require printing services the process must start afresh according to the Act and its regulations.

NEPC, in an attempt to comply with the directive of the review panel, issued another tender and again awarded it to Newsprint, but cancelled it again because the procurement requirements of NEPC had changed, according to documents filed by Sisa Namandje, for Newsprint. He called the cancellation “suspicious, to say the least”.
NEPC then again issued a tender, but also cancelled it and then entered into an agreement with Max Media Holdings to print the newspapers on a month-to-month basis.

Newsprint did not take kindly to this arrangement and first wrote a letter to NEPC through their lawyer, Namandje, and when it did not receive a response it approached the court on an urgent basis to rectify the situation. During arguments on the merits of the case, Namandje tore into NEPC and alluded to the fact that there is currently no valid contract in terms of which NEPC could procure printing services from Max Media Holdings and as such, such contract is unlawful.

Newsprint also contended that the decision to cancel the initial contract awarded to them is irrational, unfair, unlawful and unreasonable.

According to them the reason given by NEPC for the cancellation of the tender – that it is no longer economically viable to proceed with the tender – but still procuring printing services from Max Media Holdings, is at odds and inconsistent.

They said the decision to enter into an agreement with Max Media Holdings is unfair and prejudices them.
The lawyers for NEPC and Max Media Holdings, John Kandara and Tuafeni Muhongo, tried in vain to convince the judge that the matter is not urgent as Newsprint already knew in October last year, when the contract between them and NEPC expired, about the agreement between NEPC and Max Media Holdings.

The lawyers also said that Newsprint approached the wrong platform. According to Kandara, NEPC had to cancel the tender as it was beyond their monetary threshold in accordance with the Public Procurement Act.
According to him, Newsprint should have approached the Review Panel of the Public Procurement Board before coming to court and said it is prematurely before court.

Muhongo mainly concentrated on the urgency of the matter and said the urgency is self-created. He further told the court that no case has been made out by Newsprint and that the founding affidavit of the applicants is riddled with conclusions and not facts.

Acting Judge Parker only announced his order and indicated that the reasons for the judgement would follow at a later stage.

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