Published on December 14th, 2012 | by admin0
GOING OFF THE RAILS
The Ministry of Works and Transport is yet again embroiled in another railway tender controversy. TILENI MONGUDHI reports
The dispute involves a N$60 million rail supply contract for the long-delayed construction of the railway line between Luderitz and Aus. The national Tender Board has been forced to create a subcommittee to review Tender number F1/10/1-6/2012 for the supply of 3,000 tons of rails after the Ministry recommended the tender process be started anew due to alleged favouritism towards the bidders. Ministry officials are split – with some backing Oshana Wholesalers and others pushing for the Profile-VAE joint venture. The Ministry of Works, regularly the focus for reports of irregularities and corruption, continues to be a mess of conflicted interests.
Oshana is a new player in the rail supply business while the joint venture between Profile Investments and South African company VAE SA has already worked on Ministry projects. VAE SA is a subsidiary of an Austrian firm that manufactures railway infrastructure.
The tender evaluation process recommended that Profile-VAE receive the contract as the joint venture met all the requirements and was technically sound. However, some of officials at the Ministry argued that Oshana Wholesalers had been unfairly left out. The evaluation found that the company did not meet the technical requirements, that their paperwork was not in order and that the asking price of N$47 million was outside the recommended 15 percent difference from the estimated tender value of N$60 million. Profile-VAE submitted an asking price of N$62 million.
The reasons for the dispute are rooted in claims of corruption and nepotism. One of the tenderers is alleged to have offered another bidder N$1.5 million to withdraw from the tender. One of the companies vying for the contract is said to be so well-connected that it was able to win over half the Tender Board.
Works PS Peter Mwatile referred questions about the dispute to the Tender Board. Finance PS Erica Shafudah, who chairs the Tender Board, said the subcommittee was still studying the tender and obtaining information from the Ministry before reporting back to the Board.
It is alleged that the Director of Railways in the Ministry, Robert Kalomoh, helped Profile to attain the tender. It is also claimed that Kalomoh has a business relationship with Profile’s owners. Kalomoh, denied the allegations saying everything is above board.
John Walenga was a part owner and a director of Profile Investments until June 2010, when he relinquished his links to the company. Walenga’s other company, D & M Rail Construction, of which he owns 30 percent, received a questionable multi-million dollar contract to repair a portion of the Tsumeb-Kransburg railway line last year. Kalomoh and former Works PS, George Simataa, were accused of having deliberately avoided a tender process and appointed D & M to do the work while ignoring Tender Board instructions to get other quotations before appointing a company. Simataa, who is a close friend of Walenga, at the time denied favouring his friend. Media reports also claimed that Kalomoh managed to get D & M to employ his son.
Profile Investments owner, Veino Nghipondoka, denies any favouritism was involved. He told Insight his bid was based on the specifications set out in the tender documents. He said he was no longer partners with Walenga and had no business links with Kalomoh or anyone at the Ministry. He countered that there are those who do not want him to get tenders and that he was being unfairly treated. “I am just a victim, the top people in the Ministry don’t want me,” he said when asked if it was true the tender specifications were tailor made for him. Nghipondoka stated that he only gets work because his partners, VAE South Africa, are the only company in Southern Africa who are rail manufacturers and they have delivered to the Ministry in the past.
Meanwhile Ministry officials siding with Profile Investments accused some of their colleagues of favouring Oshana. An incident was cited whereby Undersecretary of Transport in the Ministry, Phillip Amunyela, allegedly wrote a letter on behalf of Oshana to the suppliers. The letter seen by Insight was dated 7 September 2012, while the tender adjudication process was still on. The letter was addressed to a South African based supplier Arcelormittal. “As per our discussion we would like you to confirm that Oshana Wholesalers cc has contacted you and you are able to supply the rails as per the following specifications,” read Amunyela’s letter. Amunyela confirmed to Insight that he did contact the suppliers, but said that he was mandated to do so by the ministerial tender committee as part of a due diligence process. He said the committee wanted to know if the said supplier was really in a position to supply the specified rails.
Ndangi Kamati, representative of Oshana Wholesalers, refused to comment saying he was waiting for the Ministry to inform him of the outcome.
Work on site continues to be on hold, while the Ministry sorts out the tender controversy. While all this goes on the national rail network continues to deteriorate.