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MILLIONS TO MAINTAIN SIKHUPHE

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MBABANE – A South African company has been awarded a E35 million per year contract without an open tender for, among other things, loading and offloading luggage bags from aircraft at Sikhuphe International Airport.


The contract is specifically for ground handling services, a service which most of the airlines usually do for themselves without outsourcing.
This raises questions on why so much money will be spent on one company.


However, the company and others involved are not being blamed for any wrongdoing.
Only the government officials who awarded the closed tenders are being criticised by observers close to the same project.
Documents in the possession of the Times SUNDAY reveal high costs of maintaining the Sikhuphe International Airport.
It can be said that about E3 billion was spent on building the airport.


Airlink Swaziland, for instance, has employees who provide similar services at Matsapha International Airport.
Disgruntled staff at Sikhuphe International Airport note that Swaziland has not yet bought an airline but had awarded a lucrative contract to a ground handling company.


An expert close to Sikhuphe and King Shaka International Airport in Durban, South Africa, disclosed to this newspaper that the latter, for similar services, annually spends around E2.6 million. 


It can be said that ground handlers provide essential landside and airside services to the air transport industry.
Landside services include ticketing and baggage handling at check-in desks while airside services include ramp handling, fuelling and de-fuelling, aircraft maintenance and the provision of catering services.


They also offload bags, clean the aircraft, collect waste and dispose of it and freshen the interior of the aircraft using sprays.
The Project Management Committee (PMU) is understood to be in the process of handing over Antroma, the South African company, to the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA), to facilitate payment of E2.9 million per month for ground handling at the airport.
Antroma is not the only company that was given a contract without open tendering.


There are four more companies, in total, including Antroma, that will be paid E3.8 million per month for rendering various services.
One of the companies, Combuston Investment, will be paid E480 000 per month for cleaning and grass cutting. It is stated in the documents that Combuston Investments has been given a contract of six months but impeccable sources close to the airport’s finances said the six-month period was renewable.
San Project will be paid E188 000 per month for solid and medical waste management while Steel Max Investment will be paid E137 000 for grass cutting landslide.


Top Tuff is to receive E93 000 per month for maintenance of landscape.
On a monthly basis, Antroma will be paid E2.9 million - and E175 million for the five-year period.


Disgruntled staff at Sikhuphe International Airport said they would ask for the intervention of His Majesty the King in the matter because certain influential people were allegedly contravening procurement laws and also inflating costs for services. Staff members said they were prepared to disclose names of people believed to be abusing public funds to the Anti Corruption Commission.


Prince Hlangusemphi, the Minister of Economic Planning and Development, said he was not aware of the matter but hinted that only two companies, Inyatsi Construction and Steffanuti and Bressan (S&B), known as Steffanuti Stocks, were awarded the tender to build and deliver a complete airport.
The minister said he did not have information on the subcontractors. He referred enquiries to Bertram Stewart, the Principal Secretary (PS), who said information could be sought from Antroma or management of SWACAA.


“I am not in the management of SWACAA. You can speak to them because I am not aware of what you are talking about,” said Stewart.
After saying this, he declined to entertain further questions as he hung up his mobile phone.

 

Sikhuphe, Matsapha airports different?


MBABANE – Teddy Mavuso, the General Manager of Airlink Swaziland, said his company was indeed rendering ground handling services.


He said Airlink Swaziland could also provide similar services at Sikhuphe International Airport if the airport’s operator would permit it. “We have a staff complement responsible for ground handling services,” he said.


He said Airlink Swaziland ground handlers could be declared redundant if they would not be permitted to provide the service at the new airport.


GROUND HANDLING


Ground handling is adopted in many forms; some airlines control it themselves, some contract third-parties and others use an airport’s ground handling services.

This variety creates inefficiency and airlines are often unable to effectively and consistently communicate their policies to ground handlers.


To co-ordinate these complex operations, ground handlers often use the airline’s individual departure control systems (DCS). This means third-parties and airport ground handlers must engage with a number of different DCS each day.


Sometimes one handling firm will have staff using 20 different systems. This can cause many problems, for example, training ground staff for a number of different systems is a lengthy and expensive process. Also, the nuances of an airline’s IT system can be missed and airlines fail to fully differentiate themselves from one another, meaning the brands policies and promises can effectively become lost on the ground.
(Courtesy of Airport Fleet
Management – AFM)

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