False dawn at Neckartal

05 April 2013

The sight of the hyenas viciously fighting over the rich pickings of the Neckartal Dam project does not make a pleasant sight. The Tender Board previously put the tender on hold pending a review process because of suspected irregularities in the award of the tender.


Only last week one of the country’s major daily newspapers, The Namibian, reported that a bidder for the contract, Vinci-Orascom Joint Venture, had decided to lodge a court challenge against the award of the contract to Salini S.p.A.

Vinci-Orascom apparently scored the highest marks in the tender evaluation process, but inexplicably failed to win the contract.

So what’s new! This sounds pretty much like par for the course.

In Namibia, it has become the exception rather than the rule that the best-qualified and lowest priced bidder wins the tender.

That is when we even bother to call for tenders! The common practice has become to use the loophole of tender of exemptions to circumvent sound and transparent public procurement policies.

These days, perhaps as few as 20 percent of Government contracts go out on open, public tender.

The public tender process is of course not foolproof, as the debacle of the Neckartal Dam tender clearly demonstrates.

The process remains vulnerable to manipulation, and like everything else that involves human beings it relies heavily on the honesty, integrity and good faith of the people involved.

However, unquestionably, public tenders still offer the best hope for any country to achieve a cost-efficient and economical public procurement system.

The problem lies in the deficit of honesty, integrity and sense of civic duty among public officials.

The insatiable greed of public officials has become sickening and turns one’s stomach.

Reports now allege that one or other company has agreed to give the permanent secretaries, their political bosses and assortment of fixers and middlemen N$28 million to split among themselves for having done absolutely nothing.

They clinched the deal, but the company now wants them to pocket their money and quietly walk away.

It does not require their further involvement because it obviously does not believe they can add any value to the project.

This is how corruption distorts economic development, and if allowed to continue unchecked eventually destroys countries.

Corruption distorts economic development because it skews priorities toward ‘white elephant’ mega-projects at the expense of economically productive activities.

Mega-projects offer the quickest route to huge kickbacks for corrupt officials.

The Neckartal Dam appears to present a perfect example of a ‘white elephant’ mega-project.

So does Air Namibia’s never-ending purchase of exorbitantly priced big jetliners that it does not need, and that do not offer any real solutions to the domestic air transport needs of Namibians.

This type of corruption eats away the very core of the national economy, and puts the country on a road that leads straight to hell and damnation.

No one in Government has been able to put forward a convincing case for the economic rationale behind the Neckartal Dam.

The only thing we hear is vague talk of irrigation for community gardens and job creation. Can community gardens really justify the N$3 billion price tag?

No one puts exact figures on how many long-term jobs the irrigation projects could eventually create. Speaking at a community meeting in Keetmanshoop last Thursday Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa claimed the project “would facilitate the irrigation of vast stretches of land”.

On Monday this week, Governor of Karas Region Clinton Swartbooi hailed the dam project, saying it would “provide jobs and improve living standards”.

Talk is cheap, show us the figures; show us the financial cost-benefit analysis.

The reality is that some experts even question the fundamental viability of Neckartal as a dam.

The Fish River, like virtually all Namibian rivers, is not a perennial river and has a highly irregular and unreliable water flow.

Worst of all, the same river currently feeds the Naute Dam – also near Keetmanshoop – and some fear the Neckartal Dam could dry up the Naute Dam.

We all agree that South desperately needs economic development, but let us give this part of the country economically sound projects – not false hope and sham development projects.



The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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