Court Halts School Hostels Catering Tender

THE Tender Board of Namibia and the Ministry of Education may not continue with the tendering process for the award of a contract to provide food to school hostels in the Oshikoto and Ohangwena regions for the next five years, a judge ordered in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

Judge Maphios Cheda ordered the Tender Board, the minister of education, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education, and the ministry’s director of programmes and quality assurance not to continue with the tender process until legal proceedings about the decision to put the contract out on tender have been concluded.

A Tsumeb-based close corporation, Free Namibia Caterers CC, which was awarded a contract in November last year, launched an urgent application two weeks ago, after realising that the contract awarded to it was not for a five-year period but was to run only until the end of March.

The company’s managing member, Christie Mentz, says in an affidavit filed at the High Court that in her view, the contract awarded at a cost of about N$71 million a year should endure for five years from January 2014, as that was the contract period in a previous tender they managed to get set aside by the High Court.

The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal against the High Court decision in July last year and referred the tender, which had been awarded to a company in which the Swapo Party Women’s Council had a stake, back to the Tender Board to be reconsidered.

The Tender Board awarded the contract to the politically-connected Atlantic Food Services in May 2009, after the company’s tender bid had at first been disqualified.

The disqualification was reversed after a spokesperson of the Swapo Party Women’s Council had written to the chairperson of the ministry’s tender committee to lobby on behalf of Atlantic Food Services.

The company went on to supply goods in terms of the catering contract for about four years before the Tender Board decided to award the contract to Free Namibia Caterers, four months after the delivery of the Supreme Court’s judgement.

Mentz says in her affidavit that Free Namibia Caterers had been asking the Tender Board in several letters to clarify the term of the contract awarded to the close corporation, without getting any reply until a tender aertisement on 4 March indicated that the term of new contracts for the provision of catering services to Government school hostels would be for the period from the start of June this year to the end of May 2019.

The chairperson of the Tender Board and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Ericah Shafudah, says in an affidavit also filed at the court that Free Namibia Caterers “was acutely aware” of the fact that if the close corporation was the successful tenderer when the Tender Board reconsidered the tender set aside by the High Court it would have been only for the remainder of the tender period, which is to the end of this month.

Bearing in mind the background of the matter, Free Namibia Caterers has reason to believe that the tender process is again being manipulated, and it has good grounds for asking the court to intervene, Judge Cheda said in the judgement he delivered yesterday. In the pending part of a review case lodged by Free Namibia Caterers the close corporation is asking the court to review and set aside the Tender Board’s decision to invite tenders for the provision of catering services to school hostels in the Oshikoto and Ohangwena regions until 2019.

The close corporation is also asking the court to order that the contract awarded to it endures for a five-year period from January 2014, and to order the permanent secretary to invite Mentz to sign an agreement that would seal Free Namibia Caterers’ appointment as school hostels catering contractor for the two regions up to the start of 2019.

George Coleman, instructed by Elize Angula of the law firm AngulaColeman, is representing Free Namibia Caterers. Government Attorney Matti Asino represented the Tender Board and other respondents with the hearing of arguments on Friday last week.

Source : The Namibian