In 2006, the former Government of Sierra Leone agreed to privatize the ground handling operations of the Sierra Leone Airport Authority at the Lungi International Airport. At an international competitive bidding process, a Senegalese Company, named Aviation Handling Services was selected for the contract. The contract was not awarded and no one knows why.
In 2008, the National Commission for Privatization decided to re-launch the tender for the ground handling operations at the SLAA Lungi International Airport. After several evaluation processes, two companies, namely Group Europe Handling and Aviation Handling Services were shortlisted among the pack of companies that originally submitted bids. No company called SKYLINE HANDLING SERVICES was ever present in the submission of bid or shortlisted as a credible company.
In 2009, the SLAA under pressure from the NCP Chairman selected the offer of Group Europe Handling to take over the operations of the ground handling services at the Lungi International Airport. Infact, Group Europe handling never fulfilled what they offered in their bid, but due to the interest of the NCP Chairman, using the name of His Excellency as having interest in Group Europe Handling to the Evaluation Team of the SLAA who were opting for Aviation Handling Services; the contract was given to Group Europe Handling. They changed their terms and conditions from what they offered in their bid, which was very wrong according to procurement process.
All of a sudden a local company called Skyline Handling Services emerged from nowhere to take over the contract and operations as ground handling managers at Lungi Airport. Who authorized this illegal process? It is no other person than the Chairman of the National Commission for Privatization, Mr. Abu Bangura who has over whelming authority to do so. It is unacceptable that this company then purchased second security scanners and a bus from Senegal, were those equipment was replaced. In fact, it is Aviation Handling Services that actually replaced the old equipment at the Dakar Airport.
It is interesting to note that the Senegalese Company is present in eleven countries in West Africa and in the Middle East on ground handling operations. They have actually included an investment of U$4M in new airport equipment to beef up security which would facilitate additional airlines such as Emirates and Delta to fly into and out of Freetown. An official of the AHS Company confirmed that they even wrote to His Excellency to report this mater of tampering and sabotage of an attractive investment which was bound to uplift the services at the airport. Today, we have a local company that cannot even afford to provide a decent bus service on the ground at the Airport, a car for VIP guests and have also increased the Airport tax and handling charges above that in some European Countries. This is exploiting the business and individual cargo services for which such a service is poor and have not add any value to what was formerly done under the SLAA. The AHS of Senegal want the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate this scam perpetrated by the NCP Chairman who seems bent on making a fortune from State Entities using his position on a supervisory role for the proper functioning of these State assets. Look at what happened at the Sierra Leone Ports Authority after he privatized the container operations? That is another story for another day, but for now, the issue of the privatization process of the Lungi Airport Ground Handling Operations should not only be considered an illegal activity, but be seen as an insider deal orchestrated by few people at the detriment of the state.(More on this next edition)