The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has issued a statement in support of the government’s bid to obtain concession fees lost due to the legal debacle surrounding the levying of an airport development charge (ADC) by airport developer GMR.
A Civil Court case filed by the then opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) late last year ruled against the charging of an ADC, as stipulated in GMR’s contract with the government-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL).
The court decision compelled the then-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to deduct the ADC charges from the concession fees due the government, which was pending appeal prior to the change of government under controversial circumstances on February 7.
However as a result of the DQP’s successful court case while it was in opposition, the government only received US$525,355 out of an expected US$8.7 million in concession fees for the first quarter of 2012.
The Transport Ministry has maintained that the former government’s decision to deduct the fee was illegitimate, initially claiming the authorisation letter was invalid as the new government had reappointed the MACL board, and insisted GMR pay the concession fees due. GMR has maintained that the ADC is chargeable under the terms of its concession agreement, and offered to exempt Maldivian nationals from paying the fee.
In its statement last week, the ACC claimed that according to article 9 of the Public Finance Act, the Finance Minister was not authorised to forgo revenue to the state without submitting the figures to the President under guidelines set by the Auditor General.
The ACC statement alleged that former MACL Chairman ‘Bandhu’ Ibrahim Saleem agreed to deduct the ADC and insurance surcharge without approval from the company’s board. As all three stakeholders had not signed the changes to the agreement, it could not be considered legally binding, the ACC claimed.
The ACC contended that the clauses in the concession agreement (18.2 and 18.3) that allow changes to the contract under certain political circumstances could not be activated as the Civil Court ruling was not a political decision, despite the case being filed by a political party.
That case was filed by DQP in a long-standing campaign against Nasheed’s government awarding the airport redevelopment to GMR. DQP leader Dr Hassan Saeed is now President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s special advisor, while DQP Vice-President Dr Mohamed Jameel is the new Home Minister.
A 24-page book released by the DQP while it was in opposition presents the government’s lease of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) to developer GMR as a threat to local industry that will “enslave the nation and its economy”.
Former President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair at the time of the pamphlet’s publication said that he felt the title’s wording was “very strong”, and drew a faulty comparison between international cooperation for mutual benefit and foreign occupation of a people and market for selfish purposes.
“The purpose of all this is to make Maldivians mistakenly feel like they are under occupation and the country is being sold out,” claimed Zuhair at the time.