By Tileni Mongudhi and Mathias Haufiku | 16 July 2020
THE Windhoek municipality’s finance department has blocked a plan to pay N$10 million to a law firm for allegedly advising how to turn the capital into an advanced tech city with lightning speed internet.
The Namibian was tipped off last week that the department flagged the N$10 million purchase order for Uanivi Gaes Incorporated issued last month.
The law firm’s co-owner lawyer Vetumbuavi Uanivi told The Namibian yesterday that they did not invoice the city. He said the municipality should answer.
“On our side everything is above board,” Uanivi said.
The payment was allegedly meant for the city’s Smart City project, that aims to bring the latest and fastest high speed internet service called 5G.
The municipality has for years flouted the “smart city” concept to copy other countries such as Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, where the government provides free Wi-Fi.
But Windhoek’s process has been tainted with controversy.
Recent developments have attracted international attention with Qatar-based Al Jazeera television releasing a report yesterday morning claiming that the city’s plan to construct 5G systems was tainted with corruption.
The Namibian reported in April this year that municipal councillors wanted Chinese telecom giant Huawei to install an internet network that will enable 5G connections in Namibia’s capital.
Opposition city councillors were concerned that there was a lack of consultation to determine the safety of the project.
5G is the next generation of mobile internet connection and offers faster download rates.
Council documents seen by The Namibian show this transaction is part of the municipality’s plan to make money from its internet infrastructure.
The plan, which also aims to turn the city into a so-called smart city by 2022, was approved by council last year.
Draft council documents compiled this year show that Windhoek’s municipality wants to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Chinese-owned Huawei.
“The aim is for Huawei Communications (Pty) (Ltd) to design and build the 5G network for the city,” council documents said.
This will be done through a separate joint venture that will be 51% owned by the municipality while the rest will be privately held. It will be run like a state-owned entity, council documents said.
Dated 8 June 2020, the purchase order described the payment as for ‘Transaction and Legal duties for the smart city project’.
The invoice was approved by the municipality’s procurement division but it was questioned by the finance department.
There was no explanation, sources said.
Sources at the City said that part of the payment was for the law firm to establish a special purpose vehicle that will act as a joint venture entity between the city and its partners in the Smart City project.
However, The Namibian understands that the said special purpose vehicle has not yet been approved by the municipal council.
The city did not respond to detailed questions regarding the payment sent last week.
Uanivi also co-owns the company that controversially won a N$300 million contract to evaluate diamonds for the Namibian government.
Uanivi Gaes Inc. represented the city at yesterday’s public hearing hosted by the Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibian (Cran).
The public hearing was held as part of Cran’s process to assess the city’s application for a telecommunications licence.
The public consultations followed an objection by Paratus against the awarding of the licence to the City of Windhoek. Paratus is fast growing as a private telecommunications company providing internet and telephony services.
The company has been at loggerheads with the municipality accusing the local authority of blocking it from expanding its infrastructure in Windhoek. Some critics have also argued that the municipality should not be competing in the telecom industry.