Seaplane terminal: ACC makes allegations against airports company over conflict of interest

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has said there is suspicion that Maldives Airports Company (MACL) has acted in the interest of a particular company or companies regarding the newly built seaplane terminal. Therefore, it has been decided to conduct a criminal investigation over the issue.

ACC announced its decision to investigate the case in a statement issued on Thursday regarding the allegations that states MACL intends to hand over the operation of seaplane terminal to a company in the interest of the company, a move which will lead to less revenue for the government.

According to the statement, MACL board decided at a meeting held on 28 November 2017 to lease the new seaplane terminal at USD 10.35 per square meter. While there are family and business relationships among the previous board members, the current board members, and the private two seaplane operators –Manta Air and Tans Maldivian (TMA), it is noted that the previous board members and the current board members have links to the two companies.

"...during the investigation carried on by ACC, it was noted that there are links between MACL and the two private seaplane operators. Thus, there is a conflict of interest in any agreements or negotiations between the parties,” said the statement.

ACC stated that they requested MACL to take corrective measures over the issues that they had noticed in their investigation. Moreover, ACC has decided to conduct a criminal investigation since there is a suspicion that MACL acted in the interest of a particular company or companies, the statement read.

Even though there were some discussions held with the seaplane operators, there were no written agreements signed between any of those parties. The statement highlights the most profitable options for the government and actions that will lead to losses for the government.

While there were rumors that the operation of the new seaplane terminal will be handed over to TMA, the government has decided to lease a more significant portion of the terminal to TMA for two years at the price of USD 10.35 per square meter to TMA. The terminal is developed by MACL investing USD 26 million.

Speaking at the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts, the CEO of the TMA, M.U.L Fauzee said that MACL has agreed to lease 19,000 square meters of land space from the new seaplane terminal for 15 years at the price of USD 10.35 per square meter to the company. Hence, he requested to honour what has been agreed on before. However, the parliament members and some politicians have been saying that it is against the Act of Public Accounts Act and MACL cannot proceed against the law.