Erongo Power Project Iced Indefinitely

THE Namibia Power Corporation will have to go back to the drawing board to find a short-term power solution for the country after its preferred project was rejected.

The Namibian has learned that President Hage Geingob yesterday decided that experts will have to be appointed to aise government on the best solution for the country’s electricity needs, while it awaits the Kudu gas power plant to go into production.

The decision came amid allegations that Electricity Control Board (ECB) chief executive officer Foibe Namene received death threats for allegedly trying to block the project.

Namene denied being threatened and added that the ECB’s role is to point out issues and risks on any project within the confines of the law and that the ECB does not stop projects.

Geingob had to intervene after mines minister Obeth Kandjoze informed him that a section of the NamPower board of directors was undermining him, while the board was also divided and that the power utility’s management also undermined its board.

Kandjoze requested more time and a briefing before the board could award the contract, but the board wanted to ignore his request and award the contract since Cabinet had given its blessings last year.

Monday’s meeting was a follow-up to two meetings held a week ago, one of which was held at State House and the other hosted by the Electricity Control Board (ECB).

At the meetings red flags were raised about the project, especially around the fact that the preferred company Xaris Energy, appear to have changed its terms of reference after NamPower received Cabinet approval to go ahead with the project in November last year.

Attorney general Sacky Shanghala also joined the ECB and Kandjoze in questioning whether the proposed gas-to-power plant was the best option while the country waits for the Kudu gas-to-power plant.

Mines minister Kandjoze could not be reached for comment yesterday, while NamPower chairperson Maria Nakale refused to comment, saying “please obtain information from the person who informed you about the meeting”.

The 250MW project was first estimated to cost N$3 billion.

However, sources said the cost has now escalated to N$7,6 billion with the electricity supply set at 400MW.

The project made headlines last year, after The Namibian reported that Nakale had a conflict of interest since one of the key players for Xaris Energy, Bonnie Paulino, is a colleague and close friend. Both denied the allegations, stating that they were merely colleagues at the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa).

Afterwards, media reports surfaced indicating that Xaris Energy was owned by trusts representing the interest of Paulino’s family as well as that of Swapo secretary general Nangolo Mbumba. Vice president Nickey Iyambo is also listed as a trustee in one of the trusts with Mbumba.

Last week, Iyambo was quoted as saying he cut ties with Xaris Energy because of his promotion to vice President.

It is also because of the project that NamPower’s company secretary Susan Mavulu was suspended, allegedly for leaking information to the media.

The suspension was not sanctioned by the board and sources said that NamPower managing director Paulinus Shilamba could not explain to the board why Mavulu has not been charged or what the charges against her are.

The Namibian has reported that Shilamba and chairperson Nakale unilaterally decided to suspend Mavulu. Nakale has distanced herself from the suspension and demanded a public apology.

Source : The Namibian