Member of Parliament and acting secretary of the Swapo Party Youth League, Veikko Nekundi, has requested the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology to probe the Telecom Namibia directory tender, alleging that there are some “abnormalities”. “Days or weeks after the closing date of the tender and tenderers having submitted their closed bids, Telecom contacted the tenderers to submit their Good Standing Certificates, whereas such documents were to be submitted during the closing and submission of the tender documents,” Nekundi said in a letter written to information minister, Tjekero Tweya, on 13 July 2016.
Nekundi said the late calls for the certificates came despite Telecom spelling out the mandatory requirements, of which the submission of a Good Standing Certificate was one. He said there are suspicions that one of the tenderers failed to submit their Good Standing Certificate. “The said company is the preferred company by some of the persons dealing with the tender, thereby manipulation [is] at play despite the suspected company having failed to comply with the tender requirement,” said Nekundi. “I am further informed that the said situation prevailed five years or so ago, and it looks to repeat itself. In the context above, I hereby humbly request your good self to investigate these serious allegations and to intervene in order to ensure that all tenderers are fairly treated and that no manipulations take place. Further, that the tender not be cancelled as a manipulative means,” Nekundi said.
Tweya on Wednesday confirmed receiving Nekundi’s letter.
“The document you are talking about, I received it and I forwarded it to the board for their action,” said the minister. Nekundi refused to comment on the letter when approached for further comments, saying only: “I can confirm that I wrote such a letter but I cannot talk about it because the issue is now with the minister.” Telecom’s procurement policy states that tenderers must be registered with the Registrar of Companies and they must provide a certificate of shareholding, registered for payment of Value Added Tax with the Commissioner for Inland Revenue, registered with the Social Security Commission and be in possession of a Good Standing Certificate from the Receiver of Revenue. In a second letter written to Tweya again on the same subject, Nekundi alleges that the current contract holder, TDS, had only paid the Receiver of Revenue on 11 July 2016 and received their Good Standing Certificate on 12 July 2016 despite the tender having closed on 21 June 2016. “Telecom requested the three tenderers to submit the Good Standing Certificates on 13 July 2016, this is despite the fact that the Good [Standing] Certificate is a mandatory requirement and must be submitted on the closing date and time of the tender, which was on 21 June 2016; and that two companies had already submitted their certificates on the closing date and time as per the requirement,” Nekundi said.
In the letter that was also addressed to Swapo Party secretary general Nangolo Mbumba and Minister of Public Enterprises Leon Jooste, Nekundi said: “I trust that in view of the information provided above it will assist your good self to seriously address this abnormality and facilitate fairness.” Responding to questions this week, Jooste said Telecom still falls under the information ministry.
“If the ICT Minister feels that the matter warrants further investigation, we will consider the facts and decide whether a special investigation is required,” he said. In 2012, Telecom formally signed a memorandum of understanding for the engagement of an advertising agent for the Telecom Namibia Print Directory with TDS Namibia (Pty) Limited. The agreement was signed in Windhoek by former Telecom boss Frans Ndoroma and Johan Myburgh, Chief Financial Officer of Trudon (Pty) Ltd, which previously traded as TDS Directory Operations (Pty) Limited, the South African holding company of TDS Namibia.
TDS Namibia is a joint venture between Trudon and Ripanga Investment Holdings, a Namibian BEE entity with 25 percent equity in TDS Namibia. These are Rodgers and Patrick Kauta and Tjakazenga Kamuhanga-Hoveka (lawyers), Marley Tjito and Dawid Nel (architects), Erastus Hoveka (MD: Nedbank Namibia), Phanuel Tjivau (Financial Manager: Total Namibia), Paulus Kanyama, Florence Kaura and Ishmael Katjitae (doctors) and prominent businesswoman Hilda Basson-Namundjebo. As per the agreement, TDS Namibia serves as the advertising agency for the Telecom Namibia Print Directory responsible for its compilation, which includes the design, sales, marketing and production of the entire Telecom Namibia directory on the basis of information supplied by Telecom Namibia. Media reports at the time revealed that TDS Directories Namibia was not in good standing with the Receiver of Revenue at the time of submitting the bid after failing to submit tax returns for 2010.
The company reportedly did also not submit its Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) return for 2012 as well as for 2007 and rather chose an even period payment system whereby their VAT payment has to be done at the end of every two months. This is not be the first time TDS Namibia is embroiled in good standing issues regarding the same tender. In 2007, according to a report in The Villager newspaper, then DTA Member of Parliament, Johan De Waal reportedly told fellow parliamentarians that the company, only registered for VAT on February 6, 2007 – some seven months after the closing of the tender; although it was a tender specification that companies applying for it should submit proof of VAT registration.”
At the time, TDS Directory Namibia beat Supreme Directory and Marketing (SDM), Brabys Publishing Namibia as well as Business Branding Networks to land the tender. TDS Namibia was established in 2006 to market, sell and produce advertising in the Telecom Namibia Directories. It is supported by TDS Namibia (Pty) Ltd in South Africa and Truvo internationally and as such, it boasts and has access to the latest product and technological innovations available worldwide.
Jooste on public procurement
Procurement of goods and services in the public sector has been a contentious process in recent years, with tenders often disputed by aggrieved parties citing tender irregularities. Some cases have been legitimate complaints while others did not hold any water.
In May, Jooste announced the launch of a Public Enterprises (PEs) Compliance Project. He said during the project lifespan, enterprise ministry officials would visit all 97 public enterprises whereby discussions would be held based on concerns of the ministry and particular elements of non-compliance, and appropriate remedial actions agreed upon.
He revealed at the time that all public enterprises will be issued with a new directive to align their procurement policies to the new Public Procurement Act 2015. The new law makes provision for the inclusion of public enterprises and the alignment of their procurement policies to this Act is of fundamental importance and another performance indicator as per Ministerial Performance Contract.
With the Central Procurement Board set to commence later this year, Jooste said yesterday that the effectiveness of the Procurement Act would depend on the quality of people appointed to the board. “I like the new Procurement Act especially since it now includes all PEs as well. The Ministry of Finance is making very good progress to implement this Act this year. The effectiveness of this Act will be determined by the quality of the people appointed to the Procurement Board and the lead they take to ensure compliance and implementation,” he said. He further warned that: “We will not tolerate any deviation from this Act and any deviation from these provisions and our directive regarding the individual procurement policies will result in appropriate punitive action.”