Zanzibar airport deal drama far from over

Dar es Salaam. ACT Wazalendo, a party to the Government of National Unity in Zanzibar, on Friday faulted the awarding of Airport management contract to Dubai National Air Travel Agency (Dnata) to operate the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport’s Terminal 3.

In November 2021, Dnata signed a contract with authorities in Zanzibar to provide ground handling services at newly built Terminal 3 at the airport. As part of the contract, two other Emirates’ subsidiaries, Emirates Leisure Retail and MMI will operate all 13 retailers and two lounges in the terminal. These include restaurant, duty free and commercial outlets.

Speaking at a news conference a week after President Hussein Ali Mwinyi defended the move, Mr Ismail Jussa, who is a top ACT Wazalendo leader, claimed that apart from being offered the contract, which involves exclusive rights to operate all duty free shops, lounges, restaurants and parking areas, the government will also be paying the company over $70,000 for consultation services.

According to the politician, the fact that Dnata has been given exclusive rights at Terminal 3, means that the current ground handlers ZAT and Transworld who have operated for the past one year at the newly built terminal will be forced to leave.
“The process of awarding the contract in this project in all its stages has all the hallmarks of twisting rules, regulations and procedures in a way that raises many questions of who exactly is giving that impetus and who is intended to benefit?” said Mr Jussa.

The two companies hold a Class II license and a concession agreement which was approved by the regulatory authority (TCAA) and ZAA, Dnata on the other hand is yet to sign a concession agreement with the regulatory authority.
Class II licence allows ground handling companies to operate in any other airport in the United Republic of Tanzania except the Julius Nyerere International Airport which is a Class I airport.

Documents that The Citizen has seen show that ZAT has been operating at the airport for the past 27 years with a concession agreement that runs until 2030 with a client base that features world class airlines, employing 300 people.

Some of the Airlines that ZAT handles include Etihad, Qatar Airways, Oman Air, Turkish Airlines Lot polish, Air Tanzania, Precision Air, Tui and Ethiopian Airlines.
On the other hand, Transworld, which has been operating at the airport for the past Six years, has Kenya Airways, Air France, KLM, Edelweiss, and Eurowings as part of its clientele list. According to Mr Jussa, under regulation Number 8 of 2011, the Zanzibar Airports Authority through its board of directors is the only entity with powers to operate Isles’ airports directly or through other parties.

“It is ZAA that has the mandate to initiate the procurement process in accordance with the Public Procurement Act. If the government through the Minister responsible for ZAA requires ZAA to find a service provider, the government should have issued instructions to the Board of ZAA and let them proceed with the process,” said Jussa.

He said that doing so, the Government Negotiation Team which was led by the Attorney General usurped powers reserved for the Zanzibar Airports Authority.
“By removing these responsibilities from the Board and assigning them to the Government Negotiation Team, it is clear that those responsible violated clear legal guidelines that cannot be revoked by anyone,” he argued.

He added: “According to the Public Procurement Act, the process of procuring a service provider had to be transparent, competitive, fair and consistent. If there were special circumstances that required the use of non-transparent and competitive alternatives, the parties had to apply for approval from the Zanzibar Procurement Authority as required by law”. According to him, by the time of awarding the contract, Zanzibar Airport was already being serviced by two ground handling firms.
“In accordance with Resolution No. 1 of 2016 by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA), Zanzibar Airport must be serviced by no more than two service providers. By the time the government entered into a contract with Dnata Company there were already two companies operating on the ground Aircraft,” he pointed out.

He added: By entering into an agreement with a third company and giving it exclusivity meant that the Government intended to remove the existing two Companies. This is against the Law and the guidelines of the Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) Act.

According to him, claims of poor services should have come from either the airlines serviced, TCAA, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) or IATA. Our efforts to reach out to the Zanzibar Airports Authority were futile as phones and messages were not answered by the time we went to press.

Last week, Zanzibar’s President Hussein Mwinyi defended the decision to award Dubai National Air Travel Agency (Dnata) a contract to operate ground handling services at the Abeid Amani Karume Airport’s Terminal 3, saying that all the due processes were followed.

Speaking during a press briefing at State House Zanzibar on Saturday July 2, the President said the decision to pick Dnata was carefully thought given the fact that Zanzibar’s economy depends on tourism, therefore they needed a company with a proven track record.
“We have used a lot of money to contract Terminal 3, almost $120 million. So if the services remain the same what will we have done by keeping the services the same after spending such an amount,” he said.

According to President Mwinyi, the claims that the company was awarded the contract without a public tender were baseless because there were four companies involved, including Oman Airports Authority, Vinci Airports from Italy and Celebi Aviation from Turkey.

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