Threat To Kotoka Int'l Airport

Anyone who thinks that the internecine war between the Ghana Airports Company (GACL) and the Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMA) over a $2 million debt allegedly owed the latter by the former is over, may be tickling himself and laughing at the same time. As the GACL has beckoned the GMA back into the boxing ring after a two-month lull, with a threat to dispense off with its services if the weather reading agency fails to justify the $2 million debt it was demanding. An official from the GACL was seen on television screens early this week challenging the GMA to prove why they must be paid that huge sum of money. In March this year, the GMA complained bitterly to the Minister of Communications, Dr. Omane Boamah, that the GACL had refused to honour a $2 million debt owed them for the services they had rendered. The amount is a percentage of landing fees collected from airlines using the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) by the GACL. The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), which regulates the air industry in Ghana, contracted the services of the GMA to provide weather forecasts or aeronautical information for airports operating in the country for the safe landing of aircraft using these airports, especially the KIA. In 2007, the operational function of the GCAA was decoupled from that of regulatory. This led to the establishment of the GACL to oversee operations at the airport, including Kotoka. The decision also led to the split in the payment of landing fees to the GMA by the two institutions. Per the agreement between GACL and GCAA, the former was to give 60% of the landing fee payment to the GMA, whilst the latter takes care of the remaining 40%. Unfortunately, whereas the GCAA has been honoring its part of the bargain, the new organisation, the GACL, has refused, leading to the piling of the debt to the tune of $2 million. The GCAA has so far not raised any issue regarding the landing fee payment, but its offshoot, the GACL, is questioning the basis for the calculation. In the said television interview, the GACL threatened to set up its own aeronautical services within four months if the threat by the GMA continues. When contacted yesterday, the Director-General of the Ghana Meteorological Agency, Group Captain Stephen Komla (rtd), said the GACL had not written to them requesting details of the $2 million they owed his outfit. “If they (GACL) have any problem and they want us to help them deal with it, they should tell us,” he said. Stephen Komla further told The Chronicle that his office was not interested in any press war, and that he expected the ministries which have oversight responsibility of the two institutions to deal with the matter. “There are processes to follow; the ministers (Dr. Omane Boamah and Dzifa Ativor) are talking at that level, let us wait for them,” he added. When asked whether he would proceed to court if the ministers failed to settle the issue, the GMA boss said they had not gotten to that level yet, and would not, therefore, make any comment on it. He also debunked earlier reports that GMA would withdraw its services if the money was not paid to them. According to him, he was aware of the tremendous role the Kotoka International Airport was playing in the Ghanaian economy, and would not do anything to harm it. The KIA, which is currently managed by Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL), a public company incorporated in 2007 under the Ghana Companies’ Act 1963, hosted as many as 1,428,424 passengers in 2010. This figure has been projected to hit 1,710,884 at the end of this year. This represents an annual growth rate of 30% and 20% respectively. A document prepared by the Ghana Airport Company, and sighted by The Chronicle, also indicates that the company raked in as much as $33,800,184 as revenue in 2010. The management has estimated that the figure would hit $53,392,375 by the end of December this year. Despite what appears to be a windfall in the operations of the airport, the GACL, an offshoot of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, would still not pay the debt it owes the GMA. When Group Captain Stephen Komla (rtd) spoke to The Chronicle in March this year, he indicated that even though the Ghana Airports Company owed them over $2 million, his outfit had no intention of suspending its services, knowing the implications it would bring to bear on the economy. According to him, when it comes to the worst, they would only proceed to court, instead of withdrawing their services. He admitted that the withdrawal of their services would lead to the downgrading of the KIA, whilst the international airlines would also suspend their operations in the country. Apart from this, exporters of horticultural products like pineapple, pawpaw and others would also suffer, because there would be no airlines to lift them. Group Captain Stephen Komla further told The Chronicle at the time that the Communication Ministry, which has oversight responsibility for the agency and her transport counterpart, which also oversees operations of the Ghana Airport Company, were dialoguing on how to settle the indebtedness. According to him, after persistent demands, the GACL settled only $50,000 of the indebtedness in 2008, and had since refused to pay the rest, which is a percentage of the landing fees the airport company collects from airlines using the port.