MACL head called to Majlis over expatriate worker issue

Managing Director of the Maldives Airport Company Ltd (MACL) Bandhu Ibrahim Saleem has been summoned to appear before the Majlis regarding the number of expatriate workers at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

Saleem has been asked to appear before the government oversight committee with human resources personnel from the company on Wednesday (December 17), writes Haveeru.

The paper reported a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) member of the committee as saying that the company had ignored requests for further information regarding the replacement of Maldivian staff, after the issue was raised by party members.

“It is one of the current government’s vows to provide Maldivians with job opportunities. But we have learnt that MACL isn’t acting in accordance with this. We have the incriminating information,” the PPM member told Haveeru.

Last December, the Ministry of Youth and Sport said it would attempt to resolve the large youth unemployment issue by replacing expatriate workers with locals.

However, angry staff at the airport soon launched a Facebook page titled ‘Say NO to foreign staffs in MACL INI Airport’, which singled out individual expatriate workers for abuse.

Source: Haveeru


Former Finance Minister, MACL Chairman facing corruption charges

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has asked the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office to press corruption charges against former Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz, former Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) Chairman ‘Bandhu’ Ibrahim Saleem, and former members of the company’s board of directors.

The senior officials of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government are accused of incurring financial losses to the state by amending the concession agreement with Indian infrastructure giant GMR to develop and manage the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), the ACC said in a statement today.

The agreement was changed upon request by the Finance Ministry to reduce the concession fee on jet fuel sales from 15 percent of revenue to one percent, resulting in a shortfall of MVR53.8 million (US$3.5 million).

The ACC investigation found that the finance ministry disregarded professional advice over changing the clauses.

In addition to two counts of corruption charges, the ACC also asked the PG office to seek damages from the former minister, chairman, and board members as the alteration was approved with unanimous consent of the MACL board.

Along with Inaz and Saleem, former board members Mohamed Ibrahim of H. Noomuthy, Mohamed Waheed of Ma. Fehiali, Ahmed Murad of Ma. Bluegrass, Mohamed Shaz Waleed, Mohamed Shafeeq Mahmood of G. Meadow, and Adam Rasheed Ahmed of G. Thalvaaruge are also facing prosecution.

Concession agreement

GMR, in a consortium with Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad (MAHB), narrowly won the International Finance Corporation (IFC)-managed bid for the airport in 2010, and signed a 25-year agreement with MACL under the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The then-opposition, including the Progressive Party of the Maldives, Jumhooree Party, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and Adhaalath Party, opposed the agreement primarily on nationalistic grounds, and alleged corruption in the bidding process.

Following the controversial transfer of presidential power in February 2012, after which opposition parties assumed control of the government, the administration of President Dr Mohamed Waheed declared the concession agreement ‘void ab initio’ (invalid from the outset), and gave GMR seven days’ notice to leave the country.

Meanwhile, in December 2012, the ACC sought corruption charges against former Finance Minister Mohamed Shihab and the MACL chairman over the decision to allow GMR to deduct a US$25 Airport Development Charge (ADC), stipulated in the contract, from concession fees owed to the state.

A report by the Auditor General found that concession revenue due the government had plummeted fourfold as a result of a Civil Court ruling that blocked the developer’s charging of of the US$25 ADC, on the grounds it was a tax and therefore required parliamentary approval.

According to the report, net concession revenue to the government had fallen to just US$6,058,848 in 2012, compared to US$25,424,877 in 2011.

Rather than appeal the Civil Court verdict obstructing the ADC, “The new government took the view that it would not be proper for it to intervene in the legal process for the benefit of a private concern,” the report noted, and instead, on April 19, 2012, informed the developer it was “retracting the previous agreement [to offset the ADC] on the grounds that the then Chairman of MACL did not have the approval of the MACL board to make the agreement.”

The government received US$525,355 from the airport for the first quarter of 2012, compared to the US$8.7 million it was expecting.

In the second quarter GMR presented MACL with a bill for US$1.5 million, and in the third quarter, US$2.2 million.

The Auditor General’s report acknowledged allegations of corruption in the deal, but finding the evidence “not conclusive on this point”, deferred to the judgement of the ACC.

On June 17, 2013, the ACC released a 61-page investigative report that concluded that the bidding process was conducted fairly by the IFC, and that the GMR-MAHB consortium won the contract by proposing the highest net present value of the concession fee.

The ACC further concluded that the awarding of the contract did not contravene amendments brought to the Public Finance Act requiring parliamentary approval for such agreements.

Furthermore,  “Considering the situation (2008, 2009 and 2010) when the decision was made to privatise the Male’ International Airport,” the ACC’s calculations showed that MACL would make a profit of about US$254 million in 25 years if the airport was operated by the government-owned company.

In June 2013, GMR filed a claim for US$1.4 billion in compensation at a Singapore arbitration court for “wrongful termination” of the US$511 million concession agreement.

Upon his return from an official visit to India this month, President Abdulla Yameen said that the government was seeking an out of court settlement with GMR before the arbitration process begins.


Airport development begins, with “no chance” of GMR returning to project

The Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) has begun a program to further develop the airport, to be done in multiple phases.

Launching a program worth US$5 million to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport’s (INIA) ground handling on Thursday, MACL Managing Director ‘Bandhu’ Ibrahim Saleem revealed that various plans had been set in place for the development of INIA.

President Abdulla Yameen has today been quoted in Indian media as stating that any future management of the airport will not be carried out by foreign companies – with the Maldives government itself the preferred overseer.

Saleem told local media that, in addition to the introduction of new baggage tractors – launched during Thursday’s event – the company will also be introducing four new passenger carrier buses, heavy load vehicles for baggage carrying, a new baggage staircase and a mechanism to assist with boarding and unboarding patients with medical conditions within a period of 60 days.

He added that the projects are being conducted under the government’s 100 day policy implementation plans.

The record US$511 million development of the airport under Indian infrastructure giant GMR was prematurely terminated under the previous administration, prompting the filing of a US$1.4 billion arbitration case in Singapore.

Saleem explained that the ground handling equipment currently in use is old and damaged, which causes unnecessary delays in operations, assuring that the introduction of new equipment will allow passengers to observe a “remarkable improvement” in the speed of service.

“We are spending company money on these programs. We have not been able to purchase any such equipment since 2007,” he was quoted as saying.

Many projects underway

According to Saleem, the program is one among many development plans the company is undertaking.

Stating that the biggest challenge faced by the airport today is the issue of flight trafficking, he said that a permanent solution to overcrowding in the airport can only be found through the building of a second runway. He did, however, note that such a project would take a “tremendous amount of time”.

Adding that a review of the previously compiled Scottwilson development master plan of the airport would commence in the next two weeks, Saleem said that compiling such a plan anew would take around one year. He stated that global experts will be arriving within two weeks to assist in reviewing and updating the plans.

While the government is deliberating on undertaking such a project, said Saleem, reclaiming land and building a new runway would itself take at least two years to reach completion.

“Flyme is bringing in a new plane. Maldivian is also bringing in another new plane. So we need a runway upgrade at the airport as soon as possible. Nevertheless, it is not an easy thing to do,” he said.

The managing director added that, while these projects are pending, the airport is currently implementing smaller development projects immediately. As an example, he revealed that the construction of a new 35,000 square meter flight apron will be contracted to an external party in the next two weeks.

“We cannot do airport development in bits and pieces separately. It must be done all together. Once the Stockwilson plan is reviewed, we can begin the main work,” he said.

Saleem added that in 2014 itself, the airport traffic will increase immensely, and that the government will be focusing on reviewing the Stockwilson plan with a focus on connecting the airport to Malé.

GMR welcome to engage in other projects, not airport development: president

Meanwhile, President Abdulla Yameen has told Indian media that the Maldivian government is not even considering resuming the airport development contract with Indian infrastructure giant GMR.

While he repeated that the government is seeking an out of court settlement regarding the arbitration case concerning the cancellation of the GMR contract in the Waheed administration, Yameen said that the Maldives “had nothing against the GMR itself”.

“I am not saying we are saying no to GMR. What I am saying is total management of the airport is far too important for the Maldivian government (to hand over). We have nothing against GMR of any Indian company. It is just that the international airport is far too important for us, commercially and from a security point of view,” Yameen is quoted as saying to Indian publication The Hindu.

“The total operation of our airport will probably not go to any foreign party. Probably not even go to a Maldivian company. It will be undertaken by the MACL, a 100 percent government company,” he stated.

Yameen affirmed that deliberations of settling the GMR issue out of court has already begun, adding that the company is welcome to pursue other projects in the country.


Managing Director of Male’ International Airport Limited appointed

Bandhu Ibrahim Saleem has been appointed as the Managing Director of Male’ International Airport Limited (MIAL), local media has reported.

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik told local media that foreign experts are to be employed as the Chief Operations Officer and Chief Finance Officer at MIAL – established by the government to manage Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

The President told local media that both short and media term development plans for the airport have been noted, and an advisory committee has been formed in order to move forward with them.

Waheed claimed that flight delays have been reduced “by a record level” and that the dollar shortage issue was currently being solved through income from the airport.