When the Namibian Embassy in Washington realised that it could not market and promote an investment promotion seminar, and President Hage Geingob was on his way with a high-level government delegation, it roped in Tess Serranti, a fixer with extensive African connections.
Serranti executed the task with ease and organised several US-based companies to attend the seminar. Interestingly, one of the companies she invited is now knocking on Namibia’s doors wanting exclusive rights to manage Namibia’s N$5 billion oil storage facility at a proposed annual cost of US$1 for a minimum period of ten years.
Serranti happens to be a consultant for one of the biggest oil traders, Swiss oil firm Vitol SA. This effectively means she is the middle-ground for Namibia and Vitol. It is not known if she is also consulting for them on the Namibian oil storage bid, but she was in Namibia last year to “follow up on her clients’ interests”.
The presidency this week confirmed that Serranti is a consultant for Vitol and at the same time confirmed that her agency was indeed roped in to organise the 2016 seminar.
In an interesting twist of affairs, President Hage Geingob last month recalled Namibian ambassador to the US, Martin Andjaba, to become a member of parliament.
Coincidentally, Andjaba who is tipped to be appointed as Minister of Presidential Affairs, was the head of mission at the time the Embassy contracted Serranti two years ago to organise the investment seminar.
Andjaba, who was Namibia’s chief diplomat in the US for ten years, will be sworn into parliament when he returns to the country soon.
These developments come at a time when State House sources confirmed an intricate web of relationships between State House officials, ministers, a Namibian embassy abroad, a US based fixer and an multinational oil company. It is alleged that a sordid plan to commit Namibia’s strategic oil storage facility into a questionable lease agreement has been forged.
Serranti appears to be the linchpin between the world’s biggest oil trader and the Namibian Government.
Interestingly Serranti, first got involved with the Namibian government, through the Namibian Embassy in Washington DC, during September 2016.
Serranti was contracted by the Embassy to assist in the organising an investment promotion seminar for Namibia in the USA.
This seminar was a precursor to the Investment in Namibia conference held about two months later in Namibia.
“Serranti was contracted to ‘assist with the marketing and promotion of the event’.
As a result she invited a number of US based businesspeople with interests in Namibia to attend the seminar and Vitol Energy was one such entity,” said Zaamwani-Kamwi.
Presidential advisor on Constitutional Affairs and Private Sector Interface, Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi, while responding to questions sent to her on the matter said the US seminar was strictly for the American business community to interact with the Namibian delegation on business related matters.
Serranti’s multiple roles as both conference organiser for the Namibian government and consultant for Vitol have raised eyebrows across the board.
This is especially after whispers in the corridors of power, suggest that both Kandjoze and Shanghala have been removed from their previous Cabinet positions because they were considered to be stumbling blocks to Vitol’s quest to lease the oil storage facility.
Vitol stands accused of trying to secure a long term PPP agreement with Namcor by circumventing Namibian laws and procedures governing PPPs.
In fact, Vitol has submitted an unsolicited proposal to Schlettwein who in turn relayed it to the Cabinet Committee on Treasury.
Zaamwani-Kamwi and Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein have been named in the questionable proposed deal. Both denied any wrongdoing or involvement whatsoever.
State House sources told The Patriot that Zamwaani Kamwi introduced Vitol’s fixer Tess Serranti to ministers in Namibia.
Fast forward to 2018, Vitol to which Serranti also consults, are first out of the blocks in a bid to secure a PPP agreement with national oil parastatal Namcor, for ten years.
The Patriot can confirm that Namcor and Vitol penned a Memorandum of Understanding during the 2017 seminar.
The Schlettwein twist
Schlettwein this week refused to comment on the ongoing Vitol saga.
The minister was approached by Vitol with an unsolicited proposal to manage the oil storage facility and in turn took it to the Cabinet Committee on Treasury.
The proposal was rejected by both Obeth Kandjoze(mines minister at the time) and Sakeus Shanghala(former attorney general) who said leasing out the facility will be a blow to the country and goes against the initial plans government had for the facility.
Kandjoze wrote to Schlettwein expressing his position on the matter. Shanghala on the other hand, wrote to Kandjoze supporting his stance.
Cabinet sources say the duo were moved from their positions because they opposed the plan to get Vitol on board.
“You must remember that both Shanghala and Kandjoze are seen as blue-eyed boys of Geingob, so it must have been something big that caused their demotions.
I can only think of the Vitol deal,” said the source.
A source close to the presidency who spoke to this newspaper expressed shock over the manner in which Schlettwein handled the matter.
“I must say I was slightly surprised by how he went about doing things, this matter obviously fits into the Procurement Act framework where an open and transparent process must be followed to secure the preferred bidder.
Alternatively the PPP Act if this is packaged as a PPP between Namcor and whoever is well capable of dealing with this matter.
I was surprised because MOF is the custodian of both laws and to my mind should have known better.
Or he should have referred Vitol to the Minister of Mines and Energy” said the source.
According to information relayed to this newspaper, no PPP project proposal was sent to the PPP unit.
If Namcor wanted a PPP, said the source, “they should run the process, not government.
Who is Tess Serranti?
Tess Serranti is the President of Africa Continental Holdings, LLC (ACH). Established in 2008, ACH, based in Washington DC, creates business opportunities and strategies for business investors seeking a competitive advantage in Africa.
ACH was created in response to the expanding and heavily regulated energy sector in Africa.
Serranti specializes in marketing strategies for multinational operations to secure their growth and increase their competitiveness in international and developing markets, focusing on the Continent of Africa.
Serranti has developed specific commercial opportunities for the construction of a 330 MW combined cycle power plant in Ghana to maximize industrial growth with the option of expansion to a 660 MW plant on behalf of CMS, a major Michigan-based utility.
Serranti is an adviser to the Government of Ghana with regard to energy and privatization sectors.
Serranti also serves as a Managing Director of Africa Energy Counselors, a boutique law firm, and as an international consultant for King & Spalding, an international law firm.
She is also a director of the Council for Africa Infrastructure Development. Serranti works out of New York, London and Accra, Ghana.