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Sunday 21 April 2019
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Who will own up to airport tender mess?

“I don’t have time…sorry” was Attorney-General (AG) Sackeus Shangala’s response when approached to comment on whether government intends to take disciplinary measures against individuals who awarded the N$7billion Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) refurbishment and expansion tender.
 
The Patriot also contacted Works and Transport Minister Alpheus !Naruseb to find out whether the officials that were involved in awarding the HKIA upgrade and expansion tender will be brought to book, however the Minister referred this paper to the pre-occupied Shangala.
 
“Kindly direct your queries to the Attorney-General since this issue is within the domain of his mandate,” responded !Naruseb.
Similarly, when Public Enterprises Minister Leon Jooste was asked the same question, his response was: “Neither me, nor the Ministry of Public Enterprises is part of this (airport tender) process”.
The multi-billion dollar tender in question was awarded to Chinese-owned Anhui Foreign Economic Construction (AFECC) who resorted to the courts in the aftermath of President Hage Geingob’s directive to cancel the tender due to perceived irregularities in the awarding process.
 
Government has opted to settle out of court with the Chinese company, a situation which could result in taxpayers having to fork out millions in settlement fees.
As a direct response to Geingob’s directive, AFECC dragged the Namibia Airports Company and subsequently the Ministry of Works and Transport to court.
 
Subsequently, Government was dealt a massive blow when it lost the legal battle against the Chinese construction company over the cancellation of the tender for the upgrade and expansion of HKIA during the culminating stages the 2016.
At the time, High Court Shafimana Ueitele ruled that instructions given by the Ministry of Works and Transport under section 9 (1) (b) of the Airports Company of 1998 to NAC to discontinue all the upgrade and expansion of HKIA were unlawful and thus invalid. As a result, government was ordered to pay for the legal bills of the construction company.
 
According to those in the know, the upgrade of HKIA was a priority due to the increasing volumes of air traffic, however Government was not financially well-positioned to do the upgrade if the cost exceeded N$3billion.
 
Out of court settlement
Confidente, a local weekly this week reported that government and the Chinese-owned AFECC have opted to resolve their differences outside of the courts to avoid further embarrassments.
According to the said newspaper, Shanghala informed Works and Transport Minister, Alpheus! Naruseb that he was approached by diplomats from the Chinese Embassy who expressed deep regret over AFECC taking the Namibian Government to court over the tender. According to the article, the Chinese embassy is willing to act as a mediator between the parties.
 
“I was delighted to receive a visit from the Deputy Head of Mission: Embassy of China, Mr Li Na, the Second Secretary, Mr Feng Deheng and the Economic and Commercial Counsellor, Mr Ao Xiaoleli, who informed me that they regret the embarrassment caused to the relationship between the two countries when the company Anhui, took the Government of the Republic of Namibia to court,
 
“The company has expressed its desire to engage with the GRN to settle the matter amicably and as such the embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Namibia will be amendable to engage the company, Anhui and negotiate the terms of a settlement,” Shangala wrote to !Naruseb according to the article.
 
The amount of money that the Namibian government will (if any) have to fork out as part of the out-of-court settlement remains a mystery at this point.



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