RA defends choosing Chinese contractors

Niël Terblanché

Following a countrywide outcry over the possible choice of a Chinese contractor for the project to rehabilitate the road between Usakos and Karibib the Roads Authority clarified the prequalification process officially.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Roads Authority, Conrad Lutombi, said in a statement that the tender process is subjected to the inclusion of KfW Development Bank of Germany tender rules and regulations.

Lutombi said that the project will be financed through financial cooperation under the NDP5 support programme between Germany and Namibia.

In line with financial cooperation, a loan agreement was signed on 13 December 2022 between the KfW Development Bank of Germany and the Government of Namibia represented by the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises and the RA as a project executing agency.

“Accordingly, the tender process is subjected to the inclusion of KfW tender rules and regulations, hence exemption was given by the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises to allow for such inclusion in the procurement process by the RA,” Lutombi said.

He said that the stretch of road forms part of the Trans Kalahari Highway and it is of national and international importance because it links the interior of Namibia and certain member states of the Southern African Development Community to the Port of Walvis Bay.

“Due to the complex and high technical nature of the works, RA carried out pre-qualification proceedings, in line with Section 42 of the Public Procurement Act, 2015 (Act No. 15 of 2015), as amended. Furthermore, open international bidding was used in line with Annexure 2 of the Public Procurement Regulation and as per the procurement requirements of KfW,” he said.

When the prequalification tender list of seven Chinese companies was announced, local business representatives, politicians and players in the construction industry demanded that the RA repeat the process to include Namibian contracting companies.

The protesting parties took aim at the government for neglecting local stakeholders in public procurement and stated that Namibian entities are not competing on a level playing field with their Chinese counterparts.

In reaction to the outcry, Lutombi, in his statement said that the invitation for the pre-qualification proceedings was done publicly through the local print media from 14 – 16 September 2022.

“The invitation was open for both local and foreign companies to submit their applications for prequalification in line with the set criteria. There was also a pre-bid meeting held on 15 September 2022,” he said.

According to Lutombi, the RA received a total of 17 applications and the evaluation for the pre-qualification proceedings commenced shortly after the deadline.

He added that the evaluation of the 17 applications was done in accordance with the criteria outlined in the documents that were issued to the bidders and it was concluded on 16 December 2022.

“The evaluation for the prequalification and also as approved by KfW, through their no objection, concluded that seven of the 17 applicants met the set requirements for prequalification, and will be invited to submit their bids. As per the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, bidders who did not meet the set criteria were given the opportunity to raise their objection in line with the ground for disqualification,” he said.

Lutombi said that the RA did not receive any objections on the outcome of the prequalification evaluation proceedings.

“It must be noted that the RA is committed to the empowerment and promotion of participation of local contractors in all our road construction projects in line with Section 2 of the Procurement Act. Therefore, it has been agreed with KfW to create four separate bills for works to be executed by local Namibian owned Contractors and SME Contractors,” he said.

Lutombi pointed out that it is a project specification and requirement that the seven pre-qualified bidders must submit their bids in partnership with four local bidders. He added that the value of works reserved for bidders is set at 25 percent of the total contract amount.

He said that a total of 500 employment opportunities will be created for Namibians during the construction phase.

According to Lutombi, the RA takes great pride in being one of the leading organisations in Namibia that promote the utilisation of local contractors.

He insisted that the appointment of contractors in all road construction and maintenance projects are done in a fair and transparent manner and that RA adheres strictly to the Public Procurement Act.

“We will continue to empower local contractors in building local capacity to contribute to the efforts of the government’s commitment to create employment opportunities and alleviate poverty,” he concluded.

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