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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Questions raised over Biman ‘pleasure trip’ to Rome

  • The journey reportedly undertaken by over 90 individuals
  • A mix of individuals including 45 guests, 23 Biman officials, 30 journalists
  • Biman covering the costs for government officials 
  • A technology firm is sponsoring the remaining guests
Update : 27 Mar 2024, 12:07 AM

Biman Bangladesh Airlines is under scrutiny for organizing a pleasure trip to Rome, raising questions about the appropriate use of public funds.

The journey, reportedly undertaken by over 90 individuals who do not have any work in Italy, departed from Dhaka Airport on March 26 with 198 passengers aboard. However, due to a shortage of travellers, subsequent flights on March 27 and 28 along the same route were cancelled, as indicated by the Biman website.

This development has raised concerns about Biman's operational strategies, especially considering its weekly schedule, typically on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.

The passenger list reveals a mix of individuals set for the five-day excursion, encompassing 45 guests, 23 Biman officials, 30 journalists, travel agency representatives, and their families. 

Notably, the costs of this trip are being covered by Biman for government officials and a technology firm is sponsoring the remaining guests.

Among the invitees are two employees from Sabre, a technology company. Their presence has drawn attention, with one asserting their sponsorship of landing segmentation during the journey.

While Biman maintains Sabre's commitment to covering expenses such as transportation, accommodation, and sightseeing, an audit conducted by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of Bangladesh highlights potential losses exceeding Tk1,000 crore over a decade-long agreement with the firm. This revelation fuels existing concerns about the misuse of public funds, particularly as many officials and their relatives embark on the trip without clear objectives.

Despite inquiries regarding the trip's justification and concerns about fiscal responsibility, responses from Biman's leadership remain elusive. However, Biman's Managing Director and CEO, Shafiul Azim, acknowledged the trip's existence during a recent press briefing.

This isn't the first time Biman has organized such trips, with a similar excursion to Narita, Japan, occurring last year. However, given the airline's commercial challenges, highlighted by the suspension of the Dhaka-Rome route in 2015 due to financial impracticality, questions persist about the reasoning behind such ventures.

The passenger list further reveals the presence of high-ranking officials, including parliamentary committee members, ruling party lawmakers, and Biman board members. Additionally, Biman's top executives, along with their spouses, are among those aboard.

Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), condemned the trip as a flagrant waste of public funds, citing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directives urging frugality in public expenditure.

"Once again, Biman, a huge national burden in the name of ‘national flag career,’ has indulged in remorseless wastage of public money for a totally unjustifiable cause," he said.

TIB's concerns extend to the lack of accountability within Biman, highlighting a pattern of irresponsible spending without repercussions. This latest incident, according to TIB, underscores a systemic issue perpetuating impunity within the airline.

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