Corruption is rampant at Chittagong’s Shah Amanat International Airport where the service providers harass the passengers for money, a Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) study has found.
Money is extorted from the passengers at different points starting from the entrance to the boarding lounge of the airport, said the study report titled “Shah Amanat International Airport, Chittagong: Challenges of good governance towards passenger services and ways to overcome.”
The findings were disclosed at a press conference jointly organized by TIB and Sachetan Nagorik Committee (Sanak) at Abdul Khaleque Auditorium of Chittagong Press Club on Thursday.
The study, conducted between April 2016 and October 2017, says service providers, including the Civil Aviation Authority, immigration, airlines and Ansar members victimize passengers at the airport.
According to the report, Ansar members harass the passengers at the entry and exit points. Sometimes, luggage is concealed deliberately for extorting money from the passengers in the name of tips. The amount of the tips varies between Tk50 and Tk 100.
A syndicate at the parking lot extorts money from the auto-rickshaw drivers.
It is alleged that a group of Civil Aviation Authority security personnel illegally allow passengers to carry sharp objects and perishable items in exchange for Tk200-500.
It is also alleged that a section of the immigration officials helps the migrant workers, who head for the middle eastern countries with visit visas, with immigration procedures in exchange for Tk30,000-35,000.
At times, passengers are harassed for money in spite of having legal documents. The immigration officials are reported to raise false complains about the documents and photos to demand money from passengers.
The passengers sometimes carry more local and foreign currencies than they are permitted. A section of dishonest security personnel illegally takes away the extra cash.
The report also alleges that the passengers often traffic liquor and tobacco items in collusion with a section of customs staff. Sometimes the customs staffers help the passengers evade tax for bringing in goods like gold bars, mobile handsets and clothes in exchange for money amounting to Tk2,000-14,000.
Sometimes goods are delivered from the Lost & Found section without a passport in exchange for tips.
Inadequate infrastructure, manpower
The report also mentions that although the number of passenger flights and other flights has increased over the years, the corruption-riddled airport has been suffering from acute manpower shortage.
The number of passenger flights and other flights has increased 4.94 times in 2016 compared to that in 2000.
The existing infrastructure of the airport is capable of providing services to 600,000 passengers, whereas the airport has to provide services to over 1.2 million passengers.
The airport’s ground support equipment is also inadequate. More than 37% of them have been partially functional while more than 24% of those are dysfunctional, the report said.