Although the national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines is often criticised for corruption, irregularities and incurring losses, it issued around 48 thousand tickets to its employees free of cost or for minimal fare over the last one decade.
The parliamentary standing committee on the civil aviation and tourism ministry has raised questions over issuing the tickets worth Tk 700 million.
Biman on Sunday submitted a report to the parliamentary committee which sought information about the free tickets from the flag carrier.
Biman apparently issued as many as 47,845 tickets to its officials at a discount of 85 to 100 per cent since 2009.
Biman staff issued those tickets either for themselves or for family members.
The engineering and material management department’s 551 staff took 10,848 tickets. Flight operations’ Tania Reza alone took 338 tickets. Joynal Abedin of the same department issued 173 tickets. Finance department’s Nargis Sultana took 170 tickets. Junior commercial officer Anwer Hossain issued 142 and traffic department’s ground service supervisor Arif Ahmed issued 150 tickets respectively. Those tickets were issued for trips to London, Dubai, Jeddah, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Chattogram, Sylhet, Cox’s Bazar, Jashore, Syedpur and Rajshahi.
Deputy general manager of the public relations department, Tahera Khandker, issued 81 tickets for herself, her husband, offspring and mother. Flight service department’s junior purser Mostari Anwar took 61 tickets for Thailand, Singapore, India, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. Parvin Shirin, Shabnam Kader, Sanjida Parvin, Gahida Rommi and Rozina Akter of the same department took 40-50 international tickets. Assistant manager (purchase) Swapan Kumar Dey took 68 tickets. He got 11 tickets for Dhaka to London round trip with 90 per cent discount and two for free. Swapan took four tickets of Dhaka-Singapore-Kuala Lumpur-Dhaka and Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka
Public relations department’s DGM Tahera Khandker sent a written explanation about this matter to this reporter which said that the employees of Biman get concession tickets during their service period. An official (along with dependents) can annually avail highest 20 tickets with 85 to 100 per cent concession in domestic and international destination.
The parliamentary committee, however, thinks that such wholesale concession tickets are irrational. Member of civil aviation and tourism ministry’s standing committee Kazi Firoz Rashid told Prothom Alo, “Biman is already incurring losses. Flights operate with empty seats, but at the same time tickets are unavailable. Passenger service doesn’t even exist. Yet tickets are being issued free or at minimum price to the staff. This is not right. This should be reviewed.”
Biman sources said 2,472 tickets were issued for free from London while DGM Shafiqul Islam was country manager of United Kingdom. Of those, 1,136 were business class and 1,336 were economy class tickets. Those tickets were worth Tk 160 million. Shafiqul was made OSD (Officer on Special Duty) last April for reportedly embezzling money.
Civil aviation and tourism ministry’s secretary Mohibul Haque thinks that provision of issuing tickets at such a big discount should be changed.
He said that ministry would issues directives in this end.
Biman authorities had not included the price of the discounted tickets in the report they submitted to parliamentary committee. Only a few departments including procurement and logistic support have given a complete report.
Analysing the report of the procurement and logistic support department, it has been found that 33 officials of the department took 555 tickets since 2009. Of those, 363 are tickets of domestic flight and 192 are of international round trips. Most of the domestic flight tickets were also of round trips.
Of the international tickets, 48 were of Dhaka-Jeddah-Dhaka, 35 of Dhaka-London-Dhaka, 34 of Dhaka-Singapore-Dhaka, 14 of Dhaka-Singapore-Kuala Lumpur-Dhaka, 14 of Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur-Dhaka, 3 of Abu Dhabi-Dhaka, 10 of Dhaka-Bangkok-Dhaka and 28 of Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka.
Given the low cost of Biman’s tickets and also the concessions given to its staff for tickets, the airline is spending around Tk 70 million on ticket facilities for its employees.
>Transparency International Bangladesh’s executive director Iftekharuzzaman, speaking to Prothom Alo, termed this rule unacceptable.
“Issuing tickets almost free of cost at the cost of public funds is not acceptable at all. It should be thoroughly investigated whether this facility is being misused.”
* This report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Galib Ashraf