Company with one employee wins N$222m airport fuel tender

Fifa normalisation committee chairman Bisey Uirab. File photo

The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) is facing a lawsuit in connection with the award of a N$222 million airport fuel supply contract to a company which employs one person only.

The NAC, led by chief executive Bisey /Uirab, selected Central Oil Namibia in 2021 to supply fuel at Eros and Andimba Toivo ya Toivo airports for the next 15 years in a deal valued at N$14,8 million a year.

Social Security Commission (SSC) records show Central Oil Namibia permanently employs one person and was founded in 1989 by George Iita, a former National Central Intelligence Services (NCIS) counterintelligence director.

Central Oil Namibia won the bid ahead of Puma Energy Namibia, which employs more than 91 people in Namibia.

The successful bidder will provide aircraft fuelling services at two of the biggest airports in the country.

Puma Energy has taken legal action against the NAC for awarding the oil supply contract allegedly without following correct procedures.

NAC chief /Uirab has defended Central Oil Namibia’s appointment, saying Puma failed to show that 51% of the company is owned by Namibians and 30% is owned by previously disadvantaged persons.

/Uirab also claimed that Puma had dominated airport contracts for over 30 years.
Central Oil Namibia’s current owner is Kariapwa Iita (33), the son of George Iita.

Kariapwa Iita claims in court papers that Central Oil Namibia employs 14 people, including three directors and consultants.

Central Oil Namibia said in court that Kariapwa Iita pays himself and his family members around N$300 000 per month.

This includes Kariapwa himself (N$65 000 per month), his mother, Bernadette Iita (N$65 000), as director, and his brother Peter Iita (N$65 000) as legal adviser.

Swiss-owned Puma Energy says the NAC broke the law by failing to comply with the Public Procurement Act’s requirements for competitive bidding.

The case has been unfolding in the courts since April last year.

LEGAL BATTLE

Former Puma Energy Namibia chief executive Gallo Diack in court papers said the NAC needed an exemption from the minister of finance, Iipumbu Shiimi.

“This tender was not administered by the Public Procurement Board. It ought to have been […],” Diack said.

The Public Procurement Act states that any bid above N$20 million for consultancy services should get the approval of the minister to run the bid or go through the public procurement board.

Diack said that even if an exemption was granted under section 4(2), it would still be unconstitutional.

He said Central Oil Namibia lacked capacity and is not known in the industry.

CENTRAL DEFENCE

Kariwapa Iita has rejected Puma Energy’s concerns.

“This false aspersion [attack] should be deprecated. [Puma Energy] does, in any event, not explain why a residential address in Soweto, Katutura, Windhoek, could be to the detriment of Central Oil Namibia,” he said in court papers.

Iita insisted that Puma Energy failed to explain how they determined the contract’s value at N$74,5 million for five years.

He argued: “It appears to be an estimate of the value of goods and services to be supplied by Central Oil Namibia to members of the public in the form of fuel and accessories in terms of the tender. This value, (Puma Energy) contends, necessitated an exemption in terms of the Public Procurement Act.”

Iita said the tender primarily involves granting the NAC the right to provide fuel and accessories to the public at the two airports, and establish lease agreements for premises.

“I am advised that the estimated value of this tender could not be above the threshold.”

According to Kariapwa, based on historical facts, the estimated value of the tender was N$4,3 million – significantly below the published thresholds.

DOMINANCE

The aircraft fuelling tender at the country’s main airports has been in the hands of Puma Energy Namibia for the past 18 years.

The company has held a similar tender at Andimba Toivo ya Toivo Airport for 14 years and at Hosea Kutako International Airport for 14 years (from 2009 to 2023).

/Uirab appears to be using Puma’s dominance to defend the appointment of a company that is accused of lacking experience.

“The company from which Puma Energy (Namibia) (Pty) Ltd rebranded, i.e. BP, has been involved in the provision of aircraft fuelling services at HKIA since 1975 (48 years and counting),” /Uirab said last month.

“No concern was expressed by anyone when Puma Energy Namibia provided aircraft fuelling services at the aforesaid airports for extensive periods referred to above, why would it be a concern now?”

Puma teamed up with Engen and Namcor to win the tender at Hosea Kutako International Airport, which is still being adjudicated.

/UIRAB’S BEE PUSH

/Uirab said in court papers that Puma Energy was disqualified for failing to submit a copy of the affirmative action compliance certificate.

“Puma Energy Namibia further did not initial all pages of its original and copies of its bid. They did not provide proof that it is a bidder of which no less than 51% equity is owned by Namibian citizens of which 30% is owned by previously disadvantaged persons,” he said.

/Uirab said the finance minister exempted public entities’ procurement for asset disposal, acquisition, rights granting, and letting/hiring from the Public Procurement Act 15 of 2015, pending finalisation of related regulations.

He said the aircraft fuelling services bid falls within the category of granting of rights to provide fuelling services at the airports.
“NAC procured the aforesaid services within the confines of the ministerial exemption,” he said.

Minister of finance Iipumbu Shiimi denied receiving any exemption request for the aircraft fuelling services tender at Eros and Andimba Toivo ya Toivo Airports.

“(Puma Energy) failed to familiarise themselves with the true state of affairs in this regard before launching this review application. They made bold allegations in this regard,” said Shiimi.

OPAQUE

Little is known about Central Oil Namibia, amid complaints that the award of this tender was influenced by political connections.

It was founded on 22 April 1989 by former NCIS director of counterintelligence George Iita.

He was fired by the intelligence service in the 90s and was also involved in a shady N$25 million the government gave to the Democratic Republic of Congo, following Namibia’s controversial entry into the war to prop up then president Laurent-Désiré Kabila.

Business and Intellectual Property Authority records show that, as of August 2014, Kariapwa Iita, alongside his mother Bernadette Iita, took over Central Oil Namibia.

Other individuals listed in the court documents with their monthly earnings from Central Oil Namibia include director Matheus Shikongo (N$65 000), finance official Tinashe Masvanhise (N$65 000), operations official Robert Beukes (N$50 000), and logistics officer Hilde Michaels (N$25 000).

The company paid Vaughan Young N$120 000 to prepare tender documents.

Kariapwa and Bernadette Iita declined to comment and instead approached lawyers to respond to The Namibian.

“We are instructed to advise that our client is not inclined to comment on your mischievous questions as the issues raised therein relate to matters which are currently sub judice.

“Our client shall address those issues at the appropriate forums,” Karel Gaeb from Sisa Namandje & Co said.

Puma Energy general manager Adell Samuelson also declined to comment.

  • This article was produced by The Namibian’s investigative unit. Send us news tips from your secure email to investigations@namibian.com.na

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