The sacked Air Tanzania Company Limited’s acting chief executive officer Paul Chizi yesterday emerged, saying all allegations raised by Minister for Transport Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe are false and based on hearsay and ulterior motives.
Chizi, who spoke for the first time since he was dismissed last week, termed the minister’s accusations against him as malice-driven and unfounded, adding that he saved Sh40 million for his decision to procure uniforms for air hostesses and captains from China.
He also clarified the $3 million (Sh4.8 billion) insurance payments from Alexander Forbes, saying the government’s instructions reached him on May 22, nearly two weeks after the transaction had been effected through an ATCL account.
Citing the leasing of a Boeing 737-500 plane which ATCL leased from a Dubai-based firm, Aero Vista, Chizi defended the deal, saying he acted within his mandate as the company’s CEO in sealing what he termed as the ‘best and fairest’ deal within the aviation industry.
“For instance, the issue of uniforms which the minister says each cost $50,000 (around Sh80 million). If this statement remains uncorrected people will tend to believe it, but the fact of the matter is that the amount of money used to purchase the uniforms in China late last year was $18,000 only out of the stated amount, as the remaining amount was spent on the purchase of other materials,” stated Chizi.
With regard to claims that the prices of air hostesses’ and captains’ outfits were inflated, the sacked CEO said, “The uniforms cost ATCL only $18,000 and not $49,000 as claimed by the minister.”
“The process started by inviting local suppliers to submit their quotations…we did our calculations and established that local suppliers were more expensive,” he added.
“We finally decided to buy directly from the suppliers in China, and in so doing I saved Sh40 million which would have otherwise been spent if the company procured the uniforms locally,” Chizi elaborated.
He addd: “The consignment was of high quality material and we decided to make the purchase in China after drawing conclusions that it was more expensive to buy the required material in Tanzania according to the submitted quotations submitted. In fact, by opting for the Chinese material ATCL saved about Sh40 million”
Chizi, a professional aircraft engineer, said he wondered why the matter had to be raised after his appointment was nullified while, to his knowledge, the uniforms were purchased towards the end of last year.
“The ministry at that time formed a team to investigate the matter following a letter from an anonymous author. The team was led by one EkingoMagesa from the Civil Service secretariat and its secretary was the ministry’s deputy director of administration and personnel, Hashim Butara,” he said, adding:
“The panel also included the ministry’s chief accountant and former director general of the Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA), Prosper Tesha. According to the probe team’s report, everything was properly done. Now where do these new accusations arise from?”
He challenged the ministry of Transport to issue the probe team’s findings and state if they were contrary to what he was saying now, adding that even the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) noted that the uniforms’ procurement met the legal requirements and that there was value for money.
The material included uniforms for the cabin crew, pilots and front office staff.
A quick survey conducted by The Guardian on Sunday has established that a single full pair of an airhostess’s uniform costs between $200 and $600. PrecisionAir last year imported its airhostess’ uniforms from Hong Kong at a similar price, according to details gathered by this paper.
A reliable source told The Guardian on Sunday yesterday that the airline imported several sets of uniforms for its airhostesses last year from Hong Kong at the cost of between $200 and $600 per set.
He said the cost of a set depended on the category of the set, adding that the most expensive category could cost as high as $600 while the lowest cost $200.
Referring to the transfer of $3 million paid by insurer Alexander Forbes as part of insurance payment for an aircraft, a Bombadier Dash-8 which crashed when taking off at Kigoma airport last April, Chizi said the minister misrepresented the matter by stating that the ministry had issued directives to have the money deposited in a different bank account to avoid the money being affected by a court order.
“The truth of the matter is that the ministry directed ATCL to contact Consolidated Holding Corporation (CHC) so as to be provided with bank details about where the money from the insurer was to be deposited, but by the time the directive reached us on May 22 the money had already been deposited by the insurer and there is no way the payment could have been deposited in a different account from that of the aircraft owners – ATCL,” Chizi stated.
He added: “The public should also understand that the said court order which would have affected the payment had it been deposited in ATCL’s bank account with Stabic Bank is still controversial because there is a valid court injunction owing to there being other matters to be sorted out between ATCL and the creditor who sought the court order. However, the money is still intact.”
With regard to sour relations between him and senior ministry officials after the minister accused him of acting without the ministry’s knowledge, he said all the matters the minister pointed out were merely executive.
“Administrative matters are quite different from those of a technical or executive nature. There is no way a chief executive could seek approval from the parent ministry about every single matter.
“The leasing of an aircraft is a technical matter. What is important is to inform them (minister), for if you act the way the ministry wants you to you might end up doing entirely nothing because they do not respond to letters in time on the pretext of attending a series of endless meetings,” he said..
He explained that all decision on technical matters are concluded by the ATCL management, except those which need approval from higher authorities, such as government guarantees. He said in the case of leasing the Boeing 737-500 airliner no guarantee or deposit was needed, adding that it was the best leasing deal the country had ever entered into.
“The problem is that there are people who know very little about this industry but they tend to project the image that they know much,” he said..
Chizi’s sacking was announced by the ministry of Transport on June 4 through a statement signed by Permanent Secretary Omar Chambo.
It said he would be replaced by Captain Lazaro Lusajo with immediate effect. According to the PS, Chizi and four other top officials had violated the public procurement Act, apart from the fact that his employment did not follow laid down procedures.
The statement read: “Through Act No 8 of 2002 and Public Service Principle No 17(4) of 2003, the minister for Transport has revoked the appointment of the acting ATCL director-general with effect from 5 June.”
The other four directors were suspended on the grounds that their services had threatened the survival of a public entity. They are heads of legal, business, finance and technical departments.