Jan 06, 2019 News
Ogle Airport Inc.—the company that runs the Eugene F. Correia International Airport—was granted a 50-year extension to its master lease effective January 1, 2018. This is even after Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson publicly stated in 2018, that he will not approve any extension to the lease.
This newspaper understands that after Patterson insisted that no extension would be granted, Minister Joseph Harmon was then approached.
Harmon then gave the go ahead for the lease to be extended.
Even though the master lease, which was signed between OAI and the Government of Guyana in 2003 for a period of 25 years was not due to be renewed until 2028, OAI had approached the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission for an extension. At that time, only 15 years had elapsed since the lease was granted.
Last year February, this newspaper interviewed principals of OAI about the company’s issuance of sub-leases for 50 years, which were not in keeping with the master lease which clearly mandated that no subleases should extend beyond 2028.
OAI officials present during the interview were Anthony Mekdeci, Michael Correia, Nicole Correia and OAI Public Relations Consultant, Kit Nascimento.
At that time, OAI said that it made such an arrangement in response to companies that wanted greater security for their investments. The Correias said that OAI knows about business and knows that businessmen want security.
During the meeting, OAI officials exuded high confidence that the lease was going to be extended.
But, days later, this newspaper published an article which stated that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure was not aware of any arrangement to extend the Master Lease.
That was stated by none other than the Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson himself.
Patterson said that OAI approached Lands and Surveys petitioning for the contract to be extended and the Lands and Surveys then consulted him as the Minister of Public Infrastructure. His Ministry was the focal point for the Government of Guyana in the Master Lease, which was signed in 2003.
Patterson said that when his Ministry was approached, he advised against the extension, which he felt was unnecessary due to the time remaining. “OAI never approached us, Lands and Surveys approached us about getting a request and we said to Lands and Surveys exactly what I just told you; that it is not something we are contemplating at the moment. The lease has 10 years to go and is still in effect.”
This newspaper understands that Patterson was in fact being advised by his Permanent Secretary (PS), Kenneth Jordan, who was the PS at the then Ministry of Public Works in 2003 when the master lease was signed. He was familiar with the provisions of the arrangements between OAI and the PPP Government.
Reports are that Jordan had reservations about the extension due to areas of non-compliance by OAI in the master lease.
In fact, Patterson said that OAI had many obligations that were not being fulfilled.
OAI had also told Kaieteur News that it asked Minister Patterson to set up an Airport Review Committee to look into matters of concern at the airport. The company said that Patterson instead chose to set up a one-man investigation.
Patterson clarified, “We did not have a one-man investigation. We asked Attorney-at-law Stephen Fraser to look into the matter. He has a firm. We needed clarification on the lease.”
“We contracted the firm; there is a lease between the then Ministry of Public Works and OAI. Several of the clauses were not fulfilled by both the Ministry and OAI, so we needed legal opinion on what was still necessary to be done.
“There were certain obligations on both parties, so I wanted to find out legally what can be done.”
However, reports are that those breaches and failed obligations were not considered when Harmon instructed that the lease be extended.
One source from the Lands and Surveys Commission said that the State Lands Act says that any individual who has a lease can apply for an extension to that lease at any time. “So extension at that time was not against the law.”
However, the official, who spoke on the grounds of anonymity declined to speak on OAI’s unfulfilled obligations.
OAI had granted 50 year leases even before the master lease was extended.
Jags Aviation (which is a sister company of BK International), Hopkinson Mining and Air Services Limited, have all been offered 50-year leases.
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