ATCL – The never ending story


As reported here on previous occasions did the Tanzanian Auditor General in subsequent annual reports unearth a number of irregularities over the lease in 2007 of an Airbus A320, which as a result of government guarantees ended up costing the taxpayers over 40 million US Dollars. The matter raised a storm in parliament at the time when the report was published, resulting in the three named official eventually leaving the airline but in the process also taking the then Minister of Transport down with them.

The latest audit report, according to an aviation source in Dar, now even talks of additional multi million US Dollar debts the government is apparently still liable for from other deals the same management struck with suppliers.

Former ATCL Managing Director David Mattaka, whose abuse of office case was adjourned mid last year, is standing trial with two of his former staff, who were also named in the Auditor General’s report and the latest reports are likely to strengthen the prosecution case against the three accused.

The same source used the opportunity to once more castigate government for continuing to pour tax payer funds into the moribund carrier, which, while presently operating a B737 and a Bombardier Q300, is looking at an uncertain future as it is not only faced with competition from arch rival Precision Air – now covering Tanzania more extensively than Air Tanzania even during its heydays ever did – but also upstart FastJet on the Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro and Mwanza routes.

Such pending, in the past undisclosed and still obscured liabilities, besides the prospect of the country leaning towards the trade unions when it comes to disputes, has in the past kept financial suitors and potential strategic investors away from Air Tanzania, after the partnership with South African Airways was dissolved, leaving the government to step in with rescue packages time and again.

If our government had spent that money to buy into Precision Air at the time of the IPO, they would now be paid dividends instead of coughing up more money. There were all sorts of obstacles put into Precision’s way, like the forgotten taxiway to their maintenance hangar or lukewarm comments ahead of the IPO. If government would fully back Precision it could be the strongest national airline Tanzania ever had. I do not see an investor to come to the rescue for ATCL because in Tanzania there are other options now where someone can invest.. Our country needs a lot of money for health services and education, or even tourism promotion, and sinking big bucks into ATCL is a major mistake’ did the same source add when passing the information on email overnight.

Precision Air uses a mixed fleet of B737-300, ATR 42 and ATR 72 aircraft, while smaller Tanzanian airlines like Auric Air use a fleet of Cessna Caravans or Coastal Aviation a mix of single and twin engine aircraft to fly both scheduled as well as charter services between key centres but also the national parks and tourist islands off the mainland. Aviation in Tanzania is presently being boosted through a major investment by government in expanding and modernizing the three primary airports of Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar with other airports and aerodromes / airfields also being upgraded to receive larger aircraft. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from Eastern Africa’s vibrant aviation scene.