The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, George Simaata, has over the last year allegedly written two letters to Attorney General, Albert Kawana, requesting the AG’s office to review and amend a section of the TransNamib Act in order to allow other market players into the building and maintenance of Namibia’s railways, a source in the Ministry revealed to Informanté.
Any changes to Section 13 of the TransNamib Act would open the door for competitors, besides the national transport carrier, to acquire tenders to build and maintain Namibia’s vast railway lines, a move believed to have angered TransNamib managers, who view the move as a threat to the company’s monopoly over the railway sector.
In terms of Section 13 of the National Transport Services Holding Company Act of 1998, TransNamib has an obligation to maintain and manage the railway through the Railway Management Agreement entered into between TransNamib Holdings Ltd and Government. According to the agreement, maintenance includes any re-investments required to maintain the railway line. TransNamib is solely responsible for carrying out replacements and repairs.
Informanté is reliably informed that Simaata is pushing for the amendment from the AG’s office to allow D&M Rail Construction, a company owned by John Walenga and James Hatuikulipi - in which the Works PS is said to have a vested interest - to compete on the same level as the transport parastatal in bidding for railway building and maintenance tenders. Currently only the Minister of Works, Erkki Nghimtina, has the prerogative to award railway tenders to a third party.
D&M Rail Construction recently finalised maintenance work on the Tsumeb-Kranzberg railway after it was awarded a N$40 million tender from an initial N$150 million hastily approved by Cabinet last year for emergency repairs and is expected to receive a further N$95 million for the maintenance of the Aus-Luderitz railway after the funds were secretly deposited by the Ministry of Works into a TransNamib bank account two months ago, apparently to avoid the funds being returned to treasury.
According to Ailly Hangula-Paulino, chief corporate communications officer at TransNamib, the awarding of the D&M tender falls within the powers of the Minister of Works and as such cannot be seen as undue interference in the operations of TransNamib Holdings Ltd. “The said tender was made, adjudicated and awarded by the Ministry of Works and Transport,” confirmed Hangula-Paulino.
The Director of Railways in the Ministry of Works, Robert Kalomo, denied though that either Simaata or the Ministry had asked the AG’s office to amend Section 13 of the TransNamib Act. “We only asked that the Attorney General interpret the legal provisions of the Act and not the amendment of the section in question,” Kalomo said reluctantly.
Kawana and Simaata were not available for comment yesterday and were said to have been held up in meetings at State House for the best part of Wednesday.