Drama At Kotoka Int. Airport

Confusion appears to have decked cargo operations at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), following the dismissal of the Managing Director of the Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL), Ms. Doreen Owusu Fianko, by the Board. Information available to The Chronicle indicates that the MD was handed her dismissal letter on Wednesday September 4th, 2013, but she insists that she had not been served with any dismissal letter and was still at post. The Board, led by the former Member of Parliament (MP) for Ekumfi, Mr. Kuntu Blankson, is yet to issue any official statement explaining why the MD was sacked, but as the drama unfolds, workers of the GACL and their umbrella union, Public Service Workers Union, also came out yesterday to call on the government to investigate certain contracts that had been signed by the current Board, and the basis for signing those contracts. The workers told the press in Accra yesterday, that the GACL signed a contract with Aviance, a cargo handling company at the airport, to pay annual rent of $1 million. The contract, according to them, was later reviewed upwards to $1.4 million, but for strange reasons, the current Board also reviewed the figure down to $850,000. The workers claimed the decision of the board had caused financial loss to the company, and that it was only through investigations that the truth would come out. They also asked the government to reject the purported dismissal of the MD, and that they fully supported her administration. The Board, on its part, told The Chronicle that they had done nothing wrong, and, therefore, not afraid of any probe being demanded by the workers. According to Mr. Benjamin Kpodo, MP for Ho Central and a member of the board in charge of Aviance issues, before they assumed office, AH Menzi and Aviance Cargo were the two companies which had the exclusive right to handle cargo at the airport. According to him, the defunct Ghana Airways airline also had a similar privilege to handle its own cargo. He explained that when the Ghana Airways folded up, its business was to be handed over to a third company to handle. As a result of this, management, at the time, deduced that business at the airport would be spread, and that there was the need to review the rent charges downwards, which was done by slashing it from 20% to 15%. The board member further explained that when they took over, Aviance was paying $1 million as rent charge, but the third company to take over from Ghana Airways operations, which was the basis why the rent was reduced by the previous board, was not operating. Avianace had, meanwhile, signed a contract with the GACL, which would run to 2014. Kpodo said Aviance later approached them to extend the license to operate at the airport by an additional 15 years, which would have extended the current contract from 2014 to 2029. Aviance applied for the long extension, because it wanted to list on the Ghana Stock Exchange, but the Security and Exchange Commission would not sanction such business for companies which have a short term lifespan. Kpodo told The Chronicle that when the Board met to consider the proposal, the members decided to beat down the 15 year extension request to 7 years, because they felt the 15 years was too long. With this agreement, Aviance was asked to pay $2,500,000 as license fee per annum. The royalty payable to GACL was also fixed at the same 15% they were already paying. The rent charge was, however, decreased from $1 million to $850,000. The reason behind the reduction was that the third cargo handling company, which was to take over from Ghana Airways to reduce the rent charges, had still not started work. The Ho Central MP said after the above decisions had been taken, Air Ghana Perishable Cargo Centre was introduced to take over the operations of the former Ghana Airways, but their operations were limited to the handling of perishable cargo only. Based on this, the Board set up a taskforce, headed by Mr. E.T. Addo, the current Western Regional Minister, to re-negotiate with Aviance for an upward review of the rent charge, which was done by increasing the rent from $850,000 back to the original $1 million they were paying. The GACL Board regretted that after it had taken those steps, Ms. Doreen Owusu Fianko went behind them and gave permission to Air Ghana Perishable Cargo to venture into the handling of other cargo at the airport. Kpodo alleged that because the Director of Finance was not aware of this decision, Air Ghana Perishable was not billed with the mandated 15% royalties, which should have been paid to the GACL. Kpodo informed The Chronicle that when the issue came to the attention of the Board, it directed Doreen Owusu Fianko to withdraw the permission letter she had given to the perishable handling company to venture into other areas outside its remit, but she refused to comply with the order. At this point, Aviance Cargo, which felt cheated, took the case to court, but the Board is in talks with the company to withdraw the case. Kpodo said it was based on this, and other factors, that Ms. Doreen Owusu Fianko has been dismissed by the Board.