THE Central Procurement Board has told the Roads Authority to re-advertise two highway road tenders worth N$1,4 billion.
The highways in question include the Windhoek to Okahandja road which would be extended by 21 kilometres for N$1 billion while the Swakopmund to Walvis Bay road will be extended by eight kilometres for N$435 million.
A person familiar with this matter said the Central Procurement Board informed the Roads Authority about its decision last month.
The Namibian understands that the tender agency initially told the roads parastatal to also re-advertise the Windhoek to Hosea Kutako International Airport tender, but that decision is still being discussed.
The decision by the Central Procurement Board comes after Roads Authority chief executive Conrad Lutombi wrote to the transport ministry on 2 February 2018, recommending that the three companies which are currently constructing the highways should be given extensions to work on the next kilometres, which would rule out advertising the tenders.
The Roads Authority has in the past warned that these projects would be delayed and it will cost the government more money if the contracts are re-advertised. The Roads Authority believes that it will be cheaper to continue with the current contractors and save up to N$251 million.
The parastatal is of the opinion that re-advertising the Windhoek to Okahandja road, scheduled for completion by next year as part of the ‘Harambee road projects’ goals, will delay the project.
Sources said officials at the Roads Authority believe that the Central Procurement Board does not have the powers to award these road contracts because they were awarded by the previous tender regime, which gave parastatals powers to hand out tenders.
The Namibian understands that the Central Procurement Board approached attorney general Albert Kawana earlier this year to obtain a legal opinion on whether the tender agency has powers to award or extend contracts issued by the previous procurement regime.
Kawana declined to comment yesterday while chairperson of the Central Procurement Board Patrick Swartz did not answer a question sent to him on Tuesday.
In the meantime, uncertainty faces the completion of the Windhoek to Okahandja two-way road.
The initial plan was to construct the Windhoek to Okahandja road concurrently in the final phase of the project, but the tender has been delayed for more than two years.
“There is no way we can complete the Okahandja road by next year as promised in the Harambee Prosperity Plan,” a person familiar with the project told The Namibian this week.
Roads Authority spokesperson Hileni Fillemon said the construction of the Windhoek to Okahandja section 4A road is progressing. The current phase consists of the 27km road from Döbra River to the Omakunde interchange.
“Progress on this project is at 78%. Five bridges have been fully completed, and works are progressing well on the bridges/interchanges that we are currently busy with,” she said.
The section is set to be completed by September 2019, she added.
The section 4B, which is 21km, covers the road from the Osona military base to the Otjiwarongo junction – behind Okahandja on the southern side, and it will be turned into a highway.
“The design for this section has been completed, and the Roads Authority is currently engaging the government to secure funds for this section,” Fillemon continued.
The spokesperson said phase one of the Windhoek to Hosea Kutako International Airport road, which stretches from Mandume Ndemufayo Avenue to Sam Nujoma Drive, is 60% completed.
The finance ministry and the transport ministry have over the years clashed over the roads tender. The finance ministry bluntly blamed the transport ministry for committing the government to road contracts worth more than N$2 billion without consulting treasury. Deputy transport minister Sankwasa James Sankwasa said in a letter earlier this year that the roads contracts were riddled with corruption.
There is evidence that the finance ministry reduced the initial budget for the three highway projects.
Documents provided by the transport ministry show that the finance ministry chopped the budget for the three roads projects by N$292 million when the national budget was revised last month.
The Windhoek to Okahandja road, which had an initial budget of N$241 million, was reduced by N$90 million, leaving the project with N$151 million to construct the ongoing road project.
The Windhoek to Hosea Kutako road project was reduced by N$102 million and left with N$47 million. This road is set to be funded by the African Development Bank and a Chinese grant.
The Swakopmund to Walvis Bay two-way road, which had a N$149 million budget, was cut to N$47 million, reducing the project amount by N$102 million.
These project cuts were part of the massive cuts faced by the transport ministry last month.
The ministry’s entire budget for this year was reduced by N$700 million from N$2,2 billion to N$1,5 billion.
Director in the works department at the Ministry of Works and Transport, Anneline Black told The Namibian two weeks ago that the finance ministry did not consult them when it chopped the budget of 29 out of 44 projects at the cost of N$700 million.
“The Ministry of Finance did not consult the line ministries on the budget cuts of the development budget,” Black said.The finance ministry did not respond to questions about the lack of consultations.
The ministry of works indicated that the upgrading of the railway network was also cut by N$103 million from an initial budget of N$371 million.
The transport ministry is also faced with a poor implementation record.
Black, who was acting as permanent secretary of the transport ministry, said 21 out of 44 projects were not implemented for this financial year due to the lack of money.
The ministry did not respond to questions about the projects budgeted for but not implemented.
Black, however, said the ministry is still making some progress, despite the budget cuts.
“After having looked at all the affected projects, I can in all honesty not see how these project cuts will not negatively impact these projects at all,” she added.