NIDA sued for N$40m for cancelled projects

12 October 2021 | Justice

JEMIMA BEUKES



WINDHOEK

The Namibia Industrial Development Agency (NIDA) is being sued for N$40 million for services rendered by a local architectural firm, which the parastatal never paid for.

Barnard Mutua Architects, in its High Court papers filed earlier this year, claimed it provided architectural services for three government projects, which never saw the light of day.

The two parties were in court yesterday for a status hearing, and the matter was postponed to 12 November.

In April 2016, Offshore Development Company (ODC) and Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) appointed Barnard Mutua Architects, then known as Leon Barnard Architects, as principal agent for the pharmaceutical plant in Okahandja, head office building for the trade ministry headquarters and the Namibia Trade Hub.

In an affidavit by Cobus Visser from Koep and Partners on behalf of Barnard Mutua Architects, the architecture firm accused both ODC and NDC of breach of contract for allegedly failing to pay for professional services rendered.

ODC and NDC were merged to form NIDA in 2019.

The firm demands the payment of N$40 million and interest of 3% on an amount of N$15.9 million from 20 April 2018 to date.

Additionally, it demanded interest of 3% on the amount of N$24.9 million at the current prime rate per annum from 17 April 2020 to date of final payment.

‘We won’t pay’

NIDA denied responsibility, saying it was not party to any of the purported agreements, hence it cannot be held liable.

According to CEO Phillip Namundjebo, the trade minister is yet to gazette an order to carry over all rights, assets, obligations and liabilities of these two entities to NIDA.

“Currently, no basis in law or in fact exists upon which the plaintiff - or any other party for that matter - can hold NIDA liable for the performance of contractual obligations arising from contracts concluded by NDC or the ODC,” Namudjebo said.

Having served as CEO of ODC from 2008 to 2018, he also disputed the claims that ODC is indebted to Barnard Mutua Architects for the Trade Hub and pharmaceutical plant.

According to him, ODC and the trade ministry called on architectural firms to submit design proposals at their own cost to source funding for the construction of the trade hub and, subsequently, Barnard Mutua Architects, Scriba Architects and four other firms were pre-selected.

It was eventually recommended that Barnard Mutua Architects would be appointed to undertake the feasibility study of the project, which at the time was estimated to cost N$558 million.

‘It was clear’

According to Namudjebo, it was made very clear from the start that the project would not be funded by ODC or the trade ministry, but rather from sources outside the Treasury.

He also added that there was no written agreement between the two parties with regards the Trade Hub.

He added that Barnard Mutua Architects was assigned as principal agent of the pharmaceutical manufacturing project in 2016, however, in July 2018, the trade minister ordered that the project be put on hold, and the architects were expected to stop working immediately.

Namundjebo said there is no basis on which the architects could bill them for work done three years after the suspension of the project.

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