High Court overturns airport tender

12 June 2019 | Justice

JEMIMA BEUKES

The High Court has cancelled a contract awarded to China State Engineering Construction Corporation to upgrade Ondangwa Airport at a cost of N$211 million.

The contract had been awarded by the former board of directors of the Namibia Airports Company.

Judge Thomas Masuku said on Friday that the tender amount had ballooned from N$169 million to N$211 million.

“This astronomic increase, remarkably, took place over a period of nine weeks,” he pointed out.

Judge Masuku said it seemed apparent that the board “did not properly apply their minds to the correct facts”.

It was also disconcerting that the decision to award the tender was made at the board’s last meeting, where they seemed intent on leaving behind a legacy, he said.

“The fact that the tender increased astronomically by N$43 million, with the board being hoodwinked by Silombela into believing that the increase was a mere 1.5% escalation when it was actually 26%, is a hallmark of illegal conduct on the part Silombela and a failure by the board to play its oversight role properly and conscientiously,” Masuku ruled.

Courage Silombela is the NAC’s former department head of engineering and projects.

The judge also questioned the manner in which the NAC had dealt with the two executives behind this tender, Silombela and former NAC CEO Tamer El-Kallawi.

“I do agree that NAC let the [two] off very lightly, especially in light of what was seen as their egregious prejudicial conduct. Why there was a settlement with El-Kallawi simply beats me,” Masuku said.

Masuku ordered China State Engineering Construction Corporation to pay the legal costs of the court case.

China State was appointed in December 2014 to carry out the first phase of an upgrade of the airport, at a cost of N$208 million. Work on that phase was completed in July 2016.