As the controversy continues over the renaming of the Ogle International Airport (now the Eugene F. Correia International Airport), President David Granger sought to put to rest speculations over who suggested the new name for the facility.
Speaking on his weekly telecast, “the Public Interest”, the Head of State described the issues surrounding the renaming as “media frenzy”.
President Granger also distanced his government from the actual renaming of the airport, noting that his involvement was merely a suggestion to rename the facility.
“I did not rename anything… I did publicly propose to the Board of the Ogle Airport Inc (OAI) to consider, those were my words, to consider, renaming the airport after someone I felt was a distinguish son of the soil and that was the end of my involvement,” the President highlighted.
He added that he subsequently received a correspondence from the Chairman of the Board of the OAI, indicating that the board had “unanimously” accepted the suggestion and had written to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, which granted approval.
“So who is there to consult?” the president asked, adding that “the board was consulted, an offer was made to the board and board agreed, all of the members of the board were consulted, so I cannot buy that question about consultation and non-consultation in that regard,” he stated.
But, while the President seems satisfied that “consultations” at the level of the board is adequate for the renaming process, the National Air Transport Association (NATA) is arguing that the board is controlled by the Correias, thus any consultation at that level will be consulting with themselves and not necessarily all ten operators.
NATA President Annette Arjoon-Martins in a Letter to the Editor on Friday said five of the seven members on the OAI Board are affiliated with the Correias, and as such the two other members, despite being members of NATA, are a minority.
NATA represents nine of the 10 small operators at the airport, with the Correia-owned Trans Guyana Limited (TGL) being the only operator that is not a member of the Association.
Arjoon-Martins reminded that the facility sits on 450 acres of state land, located in a highly-commercial area, with a market value of about US$90 million, while the control tower, also state owned, costs approximately US$500,000, giving the airport a total value of about US$90.5 million .
She also reminded that government had permitted the use of US$2 million European Development Fund (EDF) to be converted into a soft loan with extremely generous repayment terms.
“The government apart from owning this national asset is also the largest shareholder. Contrary to what is being placed in the public domain by OAI, the development of this public utility was not done by private funds alone, nor was it ever transferred to private ownership. It was made possible through a Public/Private Partnership when the owners of five aircraft companies, although they were competitors, approached the government with a proposal to develop the airport,” she stated
She stated that the partnership was well-intentioned, and the government took for granted their pledge to ensure fairness and equity not only in their development approaches but equally in their governance and management of this facility.
“Unfortunately, that honourable intention of high standards of their stewardship, good governance, and management of this public facility was short-lived. OAI, which started out as a five-person, collegially run operation in 2000, ended up being managed as the private property of the Correia Group of Companies,” she stated.
This control of which Arjoon-Martins spoke has been a hot button topic for some time now.
In 2011, Air Services Limited (ASL) had called for a Commission of Inquiry into the Ogle Airport after it accused the airport’s management of running a “monopolistic” family affair. Again in 2013, management and ASL clashed in a bitter dispute over the requirements for the start-up of the carrier’s US$1 million fuel farm. In that instance, ASL had accused OAI of deliberately creating conditions to ensure that its fuel would not be cheaper and it would be forced to continue buying fuel stored at the fuel farm operated by Caribbean Aviation Maintenance Services (CAMS), a member of the Correia Group. Ogle International Airport is owned by government but is run by the private company, Ogle Airport Inc, which exerts total monopoly control over the facility greater than that of the private partner in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Guyana Times was told that in the past the facility is a public utility which is managed and controlled by the Private Sector. The operational arrangement was negotiated after the initial five investors who formed a corporation, Ogle Airport Inc, made a proposal to operate the airport following safety concerns which were raised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Ogle Airport is the base of operations for several local aircraft operators including: Trans Guyana Airways; ASL; Roraima Airways Ltd; Oxford Aviation; Hinterland Aviation, Domestic Aviation, Phoenix Aviation, Hopkinson Aviation, Wings Aviation and JAGS Aviation (BK).