Food Tender Raises Stink

THE multi-billion dollar Ministry of Education tender to supply food to school hostels has been hit by controversy, including claims that a top official did not disclose that his nephew’s company was among those recommended to benefit.

The Namibian has learned that the Tender Board of Namibia is scheduled to discuss and make decisions on the tender today, but questions have already been raised about the integrity of the Ministry of Education’s internal tender adjudication process.

Ministry sources alleged that the process was riddled with inconsistencies, double standards and conflict of interest. Companies that win tenders will be awarded contracts worth N$100 million per year for five years. Eight companies are set to get a piece of the pie.

However, at least one top ministry official, Charles Kabajani, has been accused of a conflict of interest. Kabajani is the ministry’s deputy permanent secretary for formal education and he is a member of the ministry’s internal tender committee.

Allegations against Kabajani are that he was part of the process that recommended the awarding of a contract to supply schools in the Kavango and Zambezi regions with food for five years to a company called Goma Food Services. Kabajani’s nephew Collins Sankwasa Puteho is a shareholder in Goma Food Services.

Puteho and Fransina Ndateelela Puteho, believed to be his wife, own a combined 25% stake in the company.

Kabajani said he had no idea his nephew was shareholder in Goma Food Services and as such, this information was not communicated to the committee when the tender was discussed.

“I only found out this fact now. His name did not come up for me to see it,” Kabajani said yesterday.

Both Putehos could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Sources said suspicions were raised after Goma Food Services was recommended for the tender when the bid they submitted was incomplete.

The company, according to documents seen by The Namibian, did not indicate a bidding price for supplying primary schools in the region, nor did it state what it would charge government for servicing special schools in the regions.

The company did not bid for supplying the Vision School in the regions, an omission that should have disqualified it straight away, sources said.

Another company which did not provide prices for primary schools, special schools in the regions for which it submitted bids but was recommended to get a five year contract, is an outfit called Pena Manufacturers. The company wanted to supply food to school hostels in the Oshana and Omusati regions.

Other allegedly questionable recommendations involve Onyofi Catering Supplies which is recommended to supply Otjozondjupa region and Platinum Investment for Omaheke region.

A source said contracts for both regions were initially awarded to other companies but this was inexplicably changed.

The ministry is also accused of shifting the goalposts to benefit undeserving companies because some of the criteria initially used for selection were changed and some companies received recommendations, yet they did not meet the criteria.

One of the initial conditions was that companies submitting tenders must be 100% Namibian-owned. This requirement was later discarded to allow foreign-owned companies to make bids. Some Namibian companies were however still disqualified because the tender committee said it was not convinced the companies were wholly Namibian-owned.

Another requirement that was changed in midstream involved the financial standing of the companies. Initially, companies were required to provide a N$100 000 tender bond and a bank confirmation of the existence of an overdraft facility, that is equal to what the company would invoice government on a monthly basis. The requirement for an overdraft facility was later changed to a minimum overdraft facility of N$2 million.

This amount was seen as being too high for small companies whose bids allegedly indicated that they would only need N$500 000 overdraft facilities. This move was also seen as a way to nudge out smaller companies who had outbid the favoured bigger companies.

The contract which was set to run from June is now supposed to run from September this year to August 2019. The dates were allegedly changed after several companies complained to education minister David Namwandi about the allegedly flawed tender process.

This came after rumours that the recommendations sent to the Tender Board were not original recommendations by the ministry’s tender committee. Namwandi allegedly requested the Tender Board to stop the process while the ministry investigated the claims.

Namwandi could not be reached for comment yesterday despite calls to his mobile phone and messages to his office.

Education permanent secretary Alfred Ilukena, yesterday said he could not comment since the tender has not yet been awarded by the Tender Board.

The last school hostel food tender in 2010 was also marred in controversy followed by long court battles about the legality of some of the awards.

Source : The Namibian