An internal audit team of the Biman Bangladesh Airlines has unearthed 'serious' irregularities in collection of cargo handling charges at its cargo complex since 2008.
The cargo complex authority of Biman did not collect the basic and other charges from non-scheduled freighters at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport since 2008, said the audit report.
It was done in violation of the IATA Clearing House (ICH) billing, the audit report revealed.
The internal audit team found that inbound non-scheduled freighters carried over 50 million kilograms (kgs) of cargo during the period from January 01, 2016 to December 31, 2017.
Over 33 million kgs of cargo were carried by outbound non-scheduled freighters during the same period.
The Cargo Audit Report 2017 said that over $9.02 million or Tk 750 million was collectable by the cargo department of the Biman during the period of 2016-2017.
The report showed that the Biman was required to collect $0.106 per kg of cargo, excluding basic charge, from scheduled and non-scheduled flights or freighters.
The audit found that the cargo handling department was collecting slab rate-based charges from some of inbound non-scheduled freighters.
They were not collecting any cargo handling charge from most of inbound and outbound non-scheduled freighters, the report said.
When the audit team asked why the charges were not collected during these years, the cargo department authority told them that they did not get any circular to that effect.
But a slab rate-based list of cargo handling charges was sent to the Chattogram airport authority in 2008 from the Ground Handling Contract Cell, the audit report showed.
Besides, an e-mail was sent to the airport authority from the same cell on June 18 last year asking it to collect slab rate-based charges from non-scheduled freighters.
The cargo complex authority started collecting the charges in February this year after the internal audit team brought the issue to the authority's notice.
It was found that over Tk 47.4 million was collected in February and March from both inbound and outbound freighters.
The collection was Tk 80.72 million in April and Tk 64.23 million in May this year.
The audit report observed that there was no scope for the Biman cargo complex to shirk the responsibility of collecting cargo handling charges from non-scheduled freighters citing the circular issue.
The audit team proposed that the general manager of the cargo complex should collect the money from the airlines/freighter company and inform the audit department of it.
When asked, Biman Managing Director AM Mosaddique Ahmed declined to make any comment on the issue as 'investigation was going on'.
When asked whether there was a circular for the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) to collect cargo handling charges from non-scheduled freighters, he said Biman has been readying an answer to it for the audit department.
The Biman MD also asked this correspondent to call him 15 days later.
There was an allegation that the then general manager for cargo handling Ali Ahsan Babu abetted the irregularities after he took charge in 2009.
Afterwards, he took charge as the GM (marketing) who supervises the GM (cargo). Later, Mr Babu was promoted as director (marketing). He also took over the additional charge of director (customer service).
He has been removed from the post of director (marketing) recently after publication of the audit report.
Talking to the FE, Mr Babu said he was not authorised to make a comment on any issue. He also asked this correspondent to contact the public relations department for any information.
Seeking anonymity, a senior cargo complex official said they had already sent their replies to audit objections.
The audit team became active monitoring the collection of charges from non-scheduled freighters as soon as the authority started collecting charges in February, he added.
The Biman authority claims that the public limited company is at financial risk as they are overburdened with loans.
At a function recently, Biman Chairman Air Marshal Muhammad Enamul Bari said the national carrier was paying salaries and other benefits to employees after taking loans from banks.
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