A parliamentary sub-committee is scheduled to visit the headquarters of the Biman Bangladesh Airlines on April 18 to investigate a number of alleged irregularities.
In its 25th meeting, the parliamentary standing committee on the civil aviation and tourism ministry formed the three-member sub-committee.
The sub-committee will inquire into failure of Biman in timely operation of flights and grounding of an aircraft at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) for a long time. These caused huge financial losses to the national airline.
The Biman managing director, however, could not give any satisfactory reply.
Committee member Kamrul Ashraf Khan was made the convenor of the sub-committee with two other members Aftab Uddin Sarker and Rowshon Ara Mannan.
The probe committee was instructed to submit its report within the next 15 days.
Committee member Nazrul Islam Chowdhury told the FE that the sub-committee would investigate why one aircraft was grounded at Dammam Airport and another one was sitting idle at HSIA, how the interim period will be adjusted and the explanation Biman made to the committee.
Biman claimed that engines of the aircrafts were not workable or serviceable, he said.
When contacted, a senior Biman official told the FE that they have not yet received any formal letter in this connection from the parliamentary committee.
He also said the committee took action about various allegations after media reports. Some allegations about irregularities in tender were not even true, he claimed.
The parliamentary standing committee asked the Biman authority to explain as to why the Boeing 777-200 ER aircraft was sitting idle at HSIA and Ranga Probhat was grounded at Dammam Airport in Saudi Arabia leading to schedule disaster and huge losses.
Besides, there is an allegation from various quarters about the lease business by Biman.
Boeing 777-200 ER was leased from Egypt Air in March 2014 but it went out of order after one year of operation.
Biman already rented two engines but all these failed too. But the airline will have to pay for 27 months until the validity of the agreement is over in February 2019.
Biman leased two aircrafts for five years at a monthly payment of US$0.585 million.
In the meeting, without mentioning any specific allegations, committee chairman Faruk Khan said many people directly complained to him about the lease business.
He said Biman has leased an aircraft which has been sitting idle for three months. The authority first made the excuse of the engine being dysfunctional. But later the excuse was found false.
He also said the standing committee will make recommendations after getting the probe report.
Experts and industry insiders said, the then Biman board members had signed a very faulty dry-lease agreement with Egypt Air with various adverse terms ignoring the interest of Biman. They served only their own interests.
If the engine goes out of order and the parts are not available, Biman could have negotiated with the authority to send the aircraft back. But the airline authority had no intention or expertise to do that.
In another incident of aircraft leasing, Biman invited request for proposal (RFP) in December last year under a wet lease agreement (with provision of crew, maintenance and insurance). A total of 14 companies submitted proposals among which five were short-listed by the evaluation committee.
Egypt-based Air Leisure became the lowest bidder with US$ 5,400 rent per hour, followed by Jordan-based JAV Commercial with US$ 6,150 and France-based Avico Asia-Pacific with US$ 6,365.
Avico has offered Biman US$ 6,365 for the first three months and US$ 6,969 for the next five months.
Biman did not charter aircraft from the lowest bidder giving various excuses. It leased aircraft from the third lowest bidder Avico. The block hour for the aircraft is 250 hours which means Biman will have to pay the hourly rent regardless of whether the aircraft flies or not.
The price difference of Avico with the lowest bidder is Tk 180 million. In eight months, Biman will have to count additional Tk 360 billion to pay for 2,000 block hours.
Moreover, Eagle Express has now taken the name of Avico which was black-listed by Biman one year ago.
Biman was supposed to start the operation of the aircraft from April. But the airline has already spent three months in awarding the job due to malpractices and there are still more procedures to follow.