NAMIBIA: Deal on new jet disguised'

GOVERNMENT'S plan to buy a new presidential jet - a state-of-the-art Falcon 7X - at a reported cost of about N$600 million was hidden in the budget vote for vehicles in the 2008-2011 Medium Term Budget.

Although Minister Helmut Angula last year April asked the National
Assembly to approve N$327,84 million for Aviation and Meteorological
Services, no specific mention was made of the aircraft deal.

The purpose of this programme is to ensure a safe, secure and
efficient Civil Aviation infrastructure and to be in compliance with
the World Meteorological Organisation Conventions as well as the SADC
Protocol on Transport and Meteorology, Angula said at the time in his
budget motivation speech.

The N$327 844 000 he was asking for under this particular vote was
among others to be spent on the completion of the Walvis Bay Airport.

Other expenditure items on the vote were a new radar system,
construction of new offices for the Department of Civil Aviation, new
Government aircraft hangars and training of pilots, Angula told

Closer scrutiny of the budget showed that the first down payment of N$130 429 000 on the jet was already made last year.

Some effort appears to have been made to disguise the purchase of the
Falcon 7X. In the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 2009-2010
published at the same time, three amounts totalling N$378,6855 million
were set aside for vehicles.

It is only under the accompanying notes under Vote 24 (the Ministry's
Development Budget of N$1,106 billion) that mention is made on page 277
of Purchase of falcon (sic) (N$130,429m; N$130,429 million; N$117,787

The Falcon 7X, a long-range business jet built by Dassault of France
and considered to be the best in its class, last year retailed for
US$50 million (about N$500 million). It has range of 11 000 kilometres
at a cruising speed of 900 km/h, and like the current Falcon B900 can
carry 12 people, including two pilots and one cabin crew member.

The Republikein daily earlier this week reported that the difference
between the N$600 million buying price and the N$378,655 million
budgeted for the new presidential jet was due to the weakening exchange
rate since the order was placed.

No comment was available from the Ministry on why Namibia was paying
US$54 million (N$378 million at 2007 exchange rates) for an aircraft
that was retailing for about US$42 million at the time.

Neither was it clear how the Ministry intended financing the shortfall
of between N$100 and N$210 million, depending on the trade-in value of
the current 16-year-old Falcon B900.

Although it was speculated that the current jet could be traded in for
as much as N$150 million (US$15 million), industry sources questioned
if this trade-in value could be realised under present economic
circumstances, where the market for executive jets has also

As with the purchase of the current presidential aircraft, bought for
N$75,5 million in 1992 when Namibia was in the throes of a crippling
drought, the current deal comes against the background of devastating
floods and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1929.

Ministry spokesman Julius Nghweda yesterday acknowledged receipt of a
list of questions regarding the purchase of the Falcon 7X, but no
official response had been received by the time of going to press.

The Namibian

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