High Court rescinds Chinese company’s urgent application in procurement dispute case

Hertta-Maria Amutenja

The High Court has denied Zhong Mei Engineering Group (Pty) Ltd, the opportunity to apply for an interim interdict on an urgent basis against the Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN) with regard to the construction of a new head office for Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa).

Acting Judge Collins Parker found that the applicant failed to establish the exceptional nature of the case or provide a proper and strong foundation for the relief sought.

This decision comes amidst a legal battle involving Palladium Civil Engineering (Pty) Ltd and Zhong Mei Engineering, who urgently challenged the Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN) over the procurement process for the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) Head Office construction project.

“Before this court is an application by notice of motion. The applicant, represented by Ms Kauta, prays the court to hear the matter based on urgency. The respondents, that is, the first to the fourth respondents (represented by Mr Phatela (assisted by Ms Shifotoka)) and the fifth respondent (represented by Mr Amoomo), have moved to reject the application.” Read the judgement.

The dispute centred on allegations of unfair and unreasonable disqualification of their bid by the CPBN. The sole shareholder and director of Palladium Civil Engineering Immanuel Uugwanga, along with Zhong Mei Engineering Group, sought an urgent interdict to prevent the CPBN from signing any contract related to the procurement until the matter was resolved.

Zhong Mei also aimed to review and set aside the review panel’s decision, which deemed their application premature.

The engineering companies contend that the CPBN’s refusal to provide a written undertaking not to proceed with awarding the contract during the review process necessitates urgent intervention by the court.

In response to the legal challenge, the CPBN declined the request for an undertaking not to proceed with the contract during the review process. The court’s recent decision refusing the interim interdict sheds light on the challenges faced by the applicants in presenting a compelling case.

This ruling marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing legal saga surrounding Zhong Mei Engineering Group’s involvement in major construction projects in Namibia. The company faced a setback last year in its attempt to recover N$33 million seized by the Namibia Revenue Agency (Namra) from its bank account.

Judge Eileen Rakow, at the time, dismissed Zhong Mei’s application, emphasising the principle of “pay now, argue later.”

The judge noted that taxpayers are obligated to settle assessed taxes before disputing their tax liability. The N$33 million seized by Namra remains with the tax agency, deemed to be in the public interest.

Zhong Mei Engineering Group, active in Namibia since its registration in 2013, has been involved in major construction projects, including the construction of a new road between Windhoek and Hosea Kutako International Airport, road upgrades in northern Namibia, and improvements to routes in the Erongo and Kunene regions.

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