In Namibia, country gets N$7 bn airport, broker gets N$100 million cut

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THE Namibia Airports Company has awarded a tender to construct a new international airport worth close to N$7 billion to a Chinese state-owned company.

This deal is not only about the contract signed in a questionable manner at a time when the state is struggling financially, but the agreement also means that well known broker Knowledge Katti might allegedly rake in more than N$100 million for being the middleman in this deal.

The tender was last week awarded to Chinese government-owned firm Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation for N$6,8 billion, Namibia Airports Company spokesperson Dan Kamati confirmed yesterday.

Kamati said the government will “fully fund” the project worth N$6,8 billion (U$478 million). This amount is an increase from the N$5 billion quoted by the same company last year.

“A letter of award has been issued to the successful bidder AFECC by government through the Ministry of Works and Transport. [It will not be an] entirely new airport but rather a major upgrade and expansion of the Hosea Kutako International Airport,” said Kamati.

He added that the project will cater for a new runway as well as a double story terminal for international passengers.

According to Kamati, the current terminal will cater for domestic flights and will also have new VIP and business lounges.

“There will be a new fire station for the airport, a new air traffic control tower and a new car parking area,” Kamati said.

Works permanent secretary Willem Goeieman denied allegations that his ministry did not want the project to go ahead due to funding constraints and added that the project has been on the cards for the past three years.

Informants however insisted that the tender was cancelled before Goeieman came into the office in July this year.

Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation is China’s construction and mining company.

The Chinese company beat fellow parastatal China Harbour Construction Engineering to the deal after their N$4 billion bid failed even though they made it to second place. Those close to the losing Asian company said they were once recommended to get the airport deal before they were elbowed out last year.

Like many other mega-contracts, this one is also affected by allegations of cronyism, fronting and another way to pocket tax payers’ money.

A source who declined to be named said there is a clique of NAC board members who fast-tracked the process of this tender by falsely using President Hage Geingob’s name, claiming that the head of state wants the new international airport project completed soon since the Ondangwa airport has already been inaugurated.

Richard Frankle & Partners Quantity Surveyors were brought in to recommend the appropriate company to get the tender.

The catch is here: NAC board member Frieda Aluteni is close to Lesley Hindjou, a quantity surveyor at Richard Frankle and Partners.

Katti is related to Aluteni, which is why some people have expressed that they are not surprised that Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation got the billion-dollar job because of a cartel of lobbyists consisting of Katti, Aluteni and others.

Even though Katti denied his interest last year on social media, saying that he has “no time to play middlemen in the new airport” tender, a source insisted that Katti – the globe-trotting broker – is in this airport deal and stands to pocket over N$100 million.

Brokers are now commonly being involved in mega state tenders. They are not partners and will not be officially named but they get handsome commissions for pushing through deals.

The Namibian reported last year the airport parastatal had already hand-picked Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation as the successful bidder for the tender of the airport even though an advert placed in the media called for tenders from interested parties.

It was also reported that the construction of the airport would be financed with a soft loan from the Chinese government, on condition that a Chinese company is chosen for the project.

The airport tender has had a shady past since last year.

Revelations that the government is set to spend N$6 billion or N$7 billion on the construction of the new airport fuels the perception that Hage Geingob’s administration continues to spend on unnecessary projects like the airport while health institutions continue begging for money.

Former health minister Richard Kamwi said in 2013 that his ministry needed about N$3 billion to turn hospitals such as Katutura into state-of-the-art health facilities, an amount the ministry did not have.

Considering that the suspended mass housing project wanted to build 10 000 houses for N$2,9 billion in two years, the N$6 billion set to be splashed on the airport is equal to building over 20 000 houses in four years.

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