Neckartal Dam delay frustrates President


The continued delay and squabbles marring the development of one of Africa’s largest dams, the Neckartal Dam in the Karas Region has irked President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Permanent Secretary of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Andrew Ndishishi admitted.
Ndishishi who is also caught in the middle of the controversy that saw the Tender Board last week sending back to the Ministry, the N$3b tender submission for further clarity said the board will then pronounce itself once his office has made the necessary clarifications.
“The idea of this project came straight from the President’s office after meeting with traditional leaders from the South. So it is dear to him. It is, therefore, my understanding that both the President and the traditional leaders are frustrated by the delay in the implementation of the project because nobody likes delays.
“We are talking about over 12 000 permanent jobs, food security and national development, all being spin offs of this endeavour. Who would be happy with a delay which takes N$70 000 a month from the Ministry each month when no contract is sealed, for the transformer that is already on site,’ said Ndishishi.
The development is now four months behind schedule.
It’s understood that the President and traditional leaders deliberated on the state of underdevelopment in their region, a move which prompted Cabinet to accelerate the rate of development with the construction of the dam being identified as a viable alternative.
The project was further motivated by the dangers posed by annual floods in the area which necessitated the need for the regulation of the flow in the Fish River.
The completion of the project will present the region with a three-in-one development. The dam will store water whilst generating power for a proposed 5000 hectare irrigation scheme. In so doing, it will cut the cost of agronomic production in the region and provide adequate employment, said Ndishishi.
However, progress has been stalled by lack of clarity on the tender submissions, according to Ndishishi who maintains that the submissions were more technical hence the delays it attracted.
Initially, the N$1.9b tender was handed to a Chinese company, Henan International linked to the Roads Construction Company (RCC). This decision, however, was overturned at the December 21 meeting which saw the contract being awarded to Impregilo, an Italian company for N$2.8b.
“I can’t say there’s division within the Tender Board because members of the board are allowed to express their views and sometimes they’ll disagree. However, it is my duty as the PS of the line ministry to make sure the objectives of the project at hand are not derailed and that the project is implemented as per the initial plan.
“I understand this project fully because I was there from the conception of the idea and being the line ministry I will be held answerable way after the completion of the construction and implementation phases.”
Although Impregilo would create 700 jobs while China Henan creates 200 during the construction phase, and with Tender Board members questioning the rationale behind the awarding of a tender to the most expensive bidder, Ndishishi stays put on Impregilo’s N$2.8b bid.
“Impregilo is the only company that proved to have the required competencies having constructed dams in Lesotho and South Africa including the Lake Kariba dam-wall, as both lead and sole contractor,” he said adding, “Some of these companies that tendered have constructed dams that cracked and caused sippages as well as collapsed under heavy flooding. A lot of the world’s largest dams today, have to be reconstructed because they were done badly, and as PS, it is my duty to avoid such mishaps right before we start. All proposals we received are within the range of our estimation of N$3b, which came from the initial 2008 study we did on the project.”  
A perusal of the proposed budget for the project, however, indicated that the Ministry had initially budgeted close to N$3b, while the Bill of Quantity stood at N$2.2b.
This was corroborated by Ndishishi, “There has been a misunderstanding in some quarters of the differences between the Bill of Quantity and the Project Budget,” he said.   
Minister in the Presidency Albert Kawana also confirmed Pohamba’s growing frustration on the project.
“We haven’t been formally informed on the progress on the development by the line ministry and we are only relying on what we are reading in the newspapers. However, the Tender Board is expected to sit this week and we are hoping that we get an update on the matter after their sitting. The bottom line from the office of the President is that we don’t want to be a nation of beggars. We have enough land and water and thus it will be a sin to see starvation (in the country). A begging country is not an independent country because donors can impose their policies on it.  
“That’s why we have adopted a government policy on food production spearheaded by our Head of State. Neckartal is a very important project for the country as far as food security and employment creation is concerned thus for me and even for my boss (Pohamba) the importance of finding a speedy and amicable solution to this delay cannot be overemphasised.  This thing of people focussing on individual accumulation of wealth at the detriment of the nation should stop,” said Kawana.
Ndishishi weighed in claiming, however, that there are continued “efforts by fellow black people to bring division within the black ranks. People are using the media for ulterior motives mainly aimed at trying to bring fellow previously disadvantaged people down while the other formerly advantaged continues to prosper.
“Certain sections of the society never get questioned when they receive tenders and when they lose the tenders they shout aloud yet some of us would be doing it for the good of the country. When a person in my capacity initiates a project at national level, some people immediately assumes that this person is doing it for self gratification or benefit. But I was in the bush for 17 years, fighting and risking my life for the liberation of my country and for the welfare of all Namibians and did not demand a dime.  I did not receive a salary in 17 years in the bush, why then will I want to benefit from national projects today?
“There is a minority which is trying to put us down by hitting on us when things do not come their way. Soon people will become scared of taking such mega projects some which involve risks, and just sit on their jobs or let things fail, only because if they choose to do the right things which may not be in the interest of some, they will be crucified.
“I will forever be worried by the technical competence of any company to be selected. Will it deliver the best dam on be constructed on the basis of our plan and technology? If they fail, the Hardap flood may one day destroy the irrigation, the nearby farms, the communities and any other thing along it.”
Karas Regional Governor Bernadus Clinton Swartbooi also said  the delay is now casting a huge doubt among the community as to whether or not the development will happen.
 He said, “It’s very bad that we always have these big budgetary plans but then we fail dismally when it comes to delivering the results. Now I am the one looking like a fool because people sitting in Windhoek don’t seem to understand the dynamics in the regions.”
According to Swartbooi when a promise of such a development is made to people in the regions they start to build their lives around it and a delay in such a development normally leads to major uncertainty and a lack of trust in the Government.
“The business community is also in doubt. They want to cash in on the development but are not sure whether or not to go for bigger loans or joint ventures yet,” he added.