…Hits out at ‘entitled’ entrepreneurs
A project initially intended to solve the country’s power woes has seemingly turned out to be an all-out war among entrepreneurs, who would like to have a share of the Xaris cake.
Since the day it was adopted by Cabinet in 2014, the controversial 250 MW Xaris project continues to be dogged by controversy. According to NamPower board chairperson Maria Nakale-Gaomas, the project was tainted by individuals with their own agendas, saying, if grievances against it were formally communicated to the board it would have found solutions for it.“In fact, before this war to fight the 250MW project started beginning of April 2015, NamPower was working hard to implement both projects since the expected demand and supply models justified the existence of both power plants, with Kudu to operate as a base-load power plant and Xaris as a mid-merit. Xaris power plant is mainly funded by the private sector with an option for NamPower to take up a minority equity stake in the project,” she said.
Nakale-Gaomas, during a recent interview with this publication, could not say whether the negative publicity around the project could have been avoided “because I do not know why those who claim to be against the project have opted to use the media to correct what they perceive to be wrong with the project”. She blamed “some” Namibian entrepreneurs for allegedly holding a culture of entitlement to national projects. “My subjective view on what has been going on around the 250MW power plant is that someone out there decided that they either benefit from this project or any electricity generation project, otherwise there cannot be a project. This is an attitude where people’s personal interest seems to be bigger than national interest and the spirit of national patriotism is lost. I believe that the pie is quite big and most people can have a piece provided we are fair and consistent in our dealings as we distribute the pie. People must learn to accept defeat and walk away.
“It is quite clear that they have their own agendas and have identified the media as part of their campaign strategies to halt progress. However, in hindsight, I believe that if stakeholders’ grievances were formally communicated to the board, they could have been objectively deliberated and solutions could have been found. Besides Arandis Power, who challenged the project in court, no one else came out publicly to lodge their concerns with the board so that these concerns can be addressed promptly,” she said.
She further conceded that the negative publicity ‘definitely’ has influenced some people’s views on the Xaris power plant specifically and the mix of generation options to consider, in general.According to Nakale-Gaomas, before 30 March 2015 when the NamPower Board met to discuss various agreements concerning the envisaged 250MW power plant, there were no dissenting views on this project. “Despite the media reports that claimed that Xaris Power plant will compete with Kudu, the intention was not for these power plants to compete at all. People should not forget that Honourable [Isak] Katali, who was the Minister at ME (mines and energy) at the time was a strong proponent of Kudu, but was also the one who submitted to Cabinet the request to invest in Xaris. If Xaris was to compete and overshadow Kudu, why would he support such a project in the first place?” she questioned.
She said such a move will give NamPower an opportunity to influence decisions, including the cost of electricity, through board representation, adding that it will further create an opportunity to increase NamPower’s asset base and the shareholders’ value.
“This includes the technical compliance assessment of the bid response to the RFP. This is the criteria which will be used as a pass or fail and determine whether that bid can be assessed further. The evaluation report compiled in 2014 addressed the issue of capacity which is being used as a reason to conclude that the bid response from Xaris was not technically compliant. I am comfortable with the documented process followed in 2014 in evaluating this tender,” she said.Despite dissenting views, Nakale- Gaomas continues to stand her ground saying: “I still believe that the evaluation team that assessed the tender in 2014 was competent enough to evaluate a tender of a project of that magnitude, hence do not find enough reasons to doubt the results of that tender evaluation process.
The team of experts who assessed the tender in 2014 prepared an evaluation report, which was presented to the board during the tender adjudication process. This report was prepared after a rigorous process was undertaken, in line with our procurement policy.”
Asked whether the prolonged period taken to decide on an investment would have adverse effects on the country’s power supply in the near future, she responded: “Definitely. If it was not for the interventions in implementing the 250MW power plant from different parties, we could have expected about 90MW coming from Xaris this month. Every delay in implementing any electricity generation project is making electricity generation planning difficult for us. We already had two incidences of power outage this year, with the last one lasting for longer than expected.”