The country’s anti-graft agency has been alerted about potential corruption in the awarding of a tender by the City of Windhoek that could cost residents over N$200 million.
Procurement procedures involving big sums were allegedly disregarded.
This is after the City allegedly swallowed a proposal by a local company Pulsar Electronic Solutions to pilot and roll out wireless smart electricity meters hook, line and sinker, without opening the tender to the public.
This has caused a huge uproar in the municipality and has senior managers at each other’s throats.
The award was allegedly made possible through insider trading between City officials, some councillors and Pulsar’s representatives.
At the heart of the ruckus is Fillemon Neputa, who became the City’s strategic executive under mysterious circumstances this week.
When contacted, Neputa declined to comment, instead referring questions to the municipality’s communication department.
Neputa had been acting in the position since the passing of Reckliff Kandjiriomuini in 2021.
Before Neputa would ascend to the executive role, he had a dark cloud of disciplinary charges around the City’s 5G scandal hanging over his head.
The charges vanished into thin air. But before that, it is alleged, Neputa brokered a deal with the powers that be at the City that part of the silent conditions for his vindication and promotion was to ensure that Pulsar’s proposal would sail through expeditiously.
“The main idea was that Neputa and those collaborating with him will make sure Pulsar Electronic Solutions gets full approval to pilot the project with a few meters at first and then gradually increase the number of meters during the piloting phase. With that, the municipality will have no choice but to appoint the company directly to implement the project in full after the piloting and won’t have to go through the public procurement process. The plan is to roll out 200 000 meters during the trial phase,” said the source.
Sources within the City are claiming that Pulsar Electronic Solutions was given preferential treatment by certain senior managers, who allegedly made sure that the proposal would be approved at council level and all the way to the piloting and implementation phases.
“That whole thing is dodgy and the Anti-Corruption Commission needs to investigate. There is clear evidence of collusion between the City and this company. How do you just give a N$200 million tender to one company even if they made the presentation to the City? Our procurement policies are very clear and they were disregarded,” an insider with intricate information on the deal said.
Called the GRIDx meters as reflected in a presentation by Pulsar Electronic Solutions, the devices are electric prepaid meters with a Wi-Fi router component to them.
Each meter is projected to cost between N$10 000 and N$20 000.
The device integrates smart metering capabilities with telecommunication technologies to allow homes to have Wi-fi access through wireless technologies such as 4G, 3G, and fibre to the home (FTTH).
What has, however, caused a storm within the corridors of the city municipality is the method and manner in which Pulsar was granted the go-ahead to pilot and eventually roll out the smart meters.
Another inside source also familiar with the deal shared that it was actually Pulsar that approached the municipality with the proposal and Neputa just happens to be the custodian of all ICT and innovation developments at the organisation.
“Not that I’m defending him, but I think it’s the usual politics being played here at the municipality. How and who the deal will benefit I don’t know at this point in time, but I do know that some senior people here are not happy with how the deal is being implemented and a fight has now broken out.
“There is a group that is after Neputa and there is also another group that is protecting Neputa. So, it’s just the usual backbiting again taking place here at the City,” shared the source.
Strangely, it is also not clear if the deal between the City and Pulsar is a joint venture or how the project’s funding module will work as the proposal has not yet reached Treasury’s public-private partnership unit, which ordinarily deals with million-dollar public contracts.
What is apparent is that the City never publicly advertised the pilot project for the electricity meters to allow other bidders an opportunity to compete with Pulsar on a level playing ground.
The contrary is true, as Pulsar only presented their proposal and was directly given the approval to run a trial test of their GRIDx smart meters.
Pulsar is owned by rookie businessman Kamati Hasheela. The business was established in 2018, he said.
Hasheela, however, denied colluding with officials at the municipality, saying the company only approached the City to pilot 20 smart electricity meters at their own cost.
They have also approached other local authorities with a similar proposition.
“We have not received a response from the municipality [on the proposal]... I don’t know about the collusion or whatever. We are just a start-up and we will be financing the project ourselves. We only proposed to pilot 20 meters,” Hasheela said upon inquiry yesterday.
The company is ambitious.
“Our mission is to establish continued collaboration between Pulsar and the City of Windhoek regarding the deployment of smart metering technology. Our mission is not only to successfully implement the proposed project but also contribute to the economic growth of Namibia,” Hasheela is quoted as saying in a letter to then-acting Windhoek CEO Faniel Maanda, also seen by this paper. According to Pulsar’s profile, Hasheela holds a degree in electronics and telecommunication from University of Namibia. He has worked as a traffic lights engineer at the City.
He also spent two years at telecommunications giant, MTC, as a radio engineering technician.
Hasheela’s version was corroborated by the council resolution, seen by New Era.
It was recommended that: “The proposal by Pulsar for a pilot project on the newly invented smart meter with Wi-Fi capabilities be noted and accepted. That the request by Pulsar for a pilot project on 20 smart meters, the business case and all related documents attached as annexure A page xxx to the agenda be noted. That should the pilot project succeed, allowance be made in the MOW to extend the testing period and number of meters to 100 and consider partnering with Pulsar for the development and production of more meters.”
It does not end there as a letter, obtained by this paper, was dispatched to ACC director general Paulus Noa on 14 July 2023, asking him to urgently look into the matter.
“The intended plan is to roll out these meters and a revenue of N$200 million is lined up once the scheme is launched. There has not been any procurement process or advertisement of the pilot scheme. I am informed that Mr Neputa has done this in exchange to be awarded the position of strategic executive [for] ICT,” reads part of the anonymous letter to Noa.
Neputa’s appointment to the executive position is also questioned.
“It is evident the said transaction should have been referred to the ministry of finance’s PPP unit for approval… all matters relating to the irregularities on the interview and complaints from the other candidate can be obtained from the council. It is not far-fetched to reasonably conclude that Mr Neputa was rewarded for the work he has done. This matter warrants to be investigated,” the letter further reads.
The City is aware of the letter to the ACC.
“It is receiving the necessary attention and council, the CEO will pronounce themselves at an appropriate time,” was all City spokesperson Harold Akwenye could say yesterday.