…Geingob accused of breaking promise not to discuss business deals
Revelations of American business personalities discovering fertile business grounds in Namibia have exposed President Hage Geingob to claims that he broke his 2016 promise not to entertain business talks at State House. This is after details emerged that a Gena Bradford presented a proposal to the President to build a medical complex in Namibia. Geingob’s links to the US are strong, and critics have since used these existing links to question Geingob’s rhetorical commitment to the ideals of transparency in government.
A US-based fixer and a business woman respectively are currently in line to land lucrative business deals in Namibia, one wants to construct a hospital while the other is a consultant to the world’s biggest oil trader that wants to manage the multibillion dollar oil storage facility. Tess Serranti and Gena Bradford-both with direct links to the President-are known to have firm business interests in Namibia.
Detailed questions sent to the presidency on Tuesday regarding the matter yielded no response.
Presidential spokesperson Dr. Alfredo Hengari yesterday said “we will get to your questions tomorrow[Friday]”.
Geingob, Bradford talk business
Bradford, the President and CEO of BMG3 Enterprises, has submitted a proposal to construct a Level 1 Medical Center Complex with a trauma unit to Geingob last year, The Patriot can confirm. It will have 300 beds expandable to 600 beds. “I acknowledge, with thanks and appreciation, receipt of your letter dated March3, 2017, regarding your proposal for the design, construction and development of a Level-1 Medical Centre Complex with Trauma Unit,” said Geingob in a letter addressed to Bradford dated 14 March 2017.
In the letter copied to both health minister Dr. Bernard Haufiku and then Namibian Ambassador to the US Martin Andjaba, Geingob informed Bradford that the health sector is a priority for government in order to bolster competitiveness of the health sector to improve the lives of Namibians.
“Given above, and having thoroughly studied your proposal, I would like to inform you that I am in the process of discussing it with the line minister and my Advisors, after which I will revert to you,” wrote Geingob. Geingob’s letter to Bradford came less than a year after he publicly announced that business people and entrepreneurs will no longer be allowed to negotiate tenders or business with him as President. “Along with our declaration of war against poverty, we have also declared war on corruption and its root causes. I would like to inform all business people and entrepreneurs from inside and outside of the country – don’t try to negotiate with me on tenders and deals,” Geingob said while delivering the keynote address at the 2016 Independence celebrations.
He said business people should adhere to the policy of approaching the respective line ministers in order to submit their proposals, and allow our multi-layered decision-making process to take effect.
Sources claim the hospital in question is the planned northern referral hospital, which at this stage looks set to be constructed in Ondangwa. This could however not be confirmed as questions sent to the presidency yielded no response by the time of going to print. Haufiku refused to comment on the matter when approached this week.
Earlier this year, Haufiku was called to order by Geingob for opposing the chosen location in Ondangwa for the construction of the N$1 billion academic northern referral hospital.
In the strong worded letter, the President pointed out that Haufiku was aware that government – through the Cabinet committee on overall policy and priorities (CCOPP) – had taken a political decision to ensure that the northern academic referral hospital should be at Ondangwa or its surrounding areas to sustain the town’s development.
“I am, therefore, puzzled by your insistence on exploring alternative sites outside the jurisdiction of Ondangwa town, given that Cabinet has already decided on the matter. In this regard, as a way forward, I advise that all stakeholders respect and adhere to the CCOPP’s decision,” wrote Geingob at the time.
Serranti who is a well connected fixer is known for making inroads in Namibia.
She is a consultant for the Vitol Group which is currently lobbying to get exclusive rights to manage and operate the N$5 billion oil storage facility at Walvis Bay for US$1 for a period of 10 years.
Serranti is a known friend of Geingob. Vitol in 2016 signed a MoU with Namcor with regard to energy investment, security and supply thereof.
This came about after discussions between the two companies identified areas of investment cooperation in Namibia.
The MoU is not a legally binding document, according to Namcor, and is being used as a basis for identifying and crystallising areas of cooperation between the two entities. She also does official consultancy work for the Namibian Embassy in Washington.
Her most recent job was to promote and market an Invest in Namibia Seminar that was held in the US in 2016. Her firm was contracted by Embassy, which at the time was spearheaded by Andjaba.
Andjaba is on his way back to Namibia after Geingob recalled him. Upon his return, he will be sworn into the National Assembly. He is also tipped to fill the vacant Minister of Presidential Affairs seat.
Discussions around the billion dollar oil storage facility are bordering on whether Namcor has the capacity to manage the oil storage facility or whether will there be need to rope in a foreign firm to operate the facility.
In an exclusive interview with The Patriot this week, Namcor managing director Immanuel Mulunga said “We may or may not appoint a third party to manage the facilities on our behalf once Government officially elects Namcor to be the operator of the strategic storage facilities.”
Mulunga said Namcor is currently doing a cost benefit analysis internally to determine the best course of action.
How will the facility impact the domestic oil industry?
Mulunga believes the facilities will put the security of supply of petroleum products in the hands of Government instead of leaving it up to the private sector as is currently the case.
Namcor will also have access to storage capacity that it can utilise to increase its footprint in the domestic and regional petroleum supply market, he said.
Since the MoU was signed, The Patriot can reveal, Namcor VTTI B.V. which forms part of Vitol entered into a project development agreement setting out principles for Namcor and VTII to develop a commercial petroleum terminal and storage facility at Walvis Bay.
Critics say the MoU gives Vitol an unfair advantage over interested parties who would also like to bid to manage the facility if the opportunity arises.
“As you correctly site it, the objective of the project development agreement is for the development of a commercial storage facility and not the strategic storage facility currently being constructed by Government.
The Commercial Storage facility is a private project (land) that Namcor has a 10% stake in. VTTI is currently buying the land on which the commercial storage facility is to be built from a private owner. Namcor is therefore not participating with Vitol to try and manage the strategic storage terminal as you are alluding to. Participation of these two entities in the operations and management of the strategic storage is mutually exclusive,” explained Mulunga when probed.
He reiterated that the MoU Namcor signed with Vitol has nothing to do with the strategic storage facility.
“I have already answered whether we are going to appoint a contractor to run the facility on our behalf or not. If a contractor were to be appointed it will be carried out in an open and transparent manner,” he said.
Mulunga also indicated that Namcor has not seen Vitol’s unsolicited bid that was submitted to the Minister of Finance in which they propose to lease the facility for US$1 per annum, nor did it know that Vitol was planning to submit an unsolicited bid. Interestingly, last year Mulunga told the Namibian media in New York, United States of America (USA) that discussion are underway to see if Vitol can help Namcor operate and manage the government’s strategic storage facility on behalf of Namcor. Nampa reported at the time that Mulunga conceded that Namcor and its staff are not yet ready to operate and manage Government’s strategic storage facility.