GMR Male International Airport (GMIAL) today sought to clarify the payment of the airport service charges, fuel re-export royalty and concession fees to the government, following reports in newspaper Haveeru that it was undergoing a tax audit due to “inconsistencies”.
Commissioner General of Taxation Yazeed Mohamed was reported in Haveeru as saying that the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) was conducting an audit of the payments as “we looked into the speculations and found that there are some issues with the amounts paid.”
Yesterday, Haveeru reported the Managing Director of the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) Mohamed Ibrahim as saying that the concession fee GMR had paid was US$2.6 million less than predicted.
“The payment was made in the first week of this month. We have informed the company that the amount does not match our estimations. The Finance Ministry has also informed the company that the actual amount would be more than that,” Ibrahim was reported as saying.
GMIAL issued a statement today claiming that concession fees up until March 31 had been paid “in full and complete compliance with the concession agreement.”
“MACL had certain observations to which GMIAL responded on April 11. MACL has not approached GMIAL with any further comments on the issue,” the statement read.
GMIAL further claimed the airport service charge was collected from airlines on behalf of the government until March 31 and paid to the MIRA on April 24, while the fuel re-export royalty was paid to MIRA on April 24 “as per the terms of the fuel re-export agreement.”
“GMIAL has not received any official communication from MIRA, other than acknowledgement of receipt, in relation to the above,” the statement concluded.
Speaking to Minivan News today, MIRA’s Director of Assessment and Audit Aiman Ibrahim said that the audit was “routine, as conducted for all tax types” and that the only inconsistency was that the airport service charge payment “was lower than our forecast.”
“Our forecast for the first three months, based on arrival and departures and factored into our 2011 budget, was that the airport service charge revenue would be US$4 million. The payment for November 25 to March 31 was US$3.9 million, so either there has been an underpayment or our forecasts were optimistic,” Ibrahim said.
The confusion was complicated, he said, “by an administration failure on behalf of the government. The Ministry of Finance was not aware it was supposed to be receiving the money. There is also conflict in the concession agreement: the agreement itself states that the [airport service charge] is to be paid monthly, but an annex in the agreement says payments are to be made on a quarterly basis. GMR had been keeping the money in a separate bank account.”
MIRA had not formally notified GMIAL that it was being audited, he said, as it was a routine audit and no notification was required unless further documentation from GMIAL was required.
GMR had met with MIRA today, Rasheed added, “and were very cooperative. They were concerned about the negative publicity.”
Indian infrastructure giant GMR, in consortium with Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), last year won a bid to develop and manage Male’ International Airport under a 25 year concession agreement which includes a spend of almost US$400 million on a new terminal.
Under the agreement the consortium paid the government US$78 million upfront, and will pay one percent of its profits and 15 percent of fuel trade revenue until 2014. From 2015 it will pay the government 10 percent of airport profits and 27 percent of the fuel trade until 2035.
The agreement has been a major point of contention with the political opposition in the Maldives, which opposed it on nationalistic grounds.