Ailing ATCL in posh car scam By Joyce Kisaka 29th September 2009EmailPrintComments Subsidy money allegedly used to order vehicles Infrastructure Development ministry Permanent secretary Engineer Omar Chambo. Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), surviving on government subsidy, is under probe for alleged purchase of more than 15 luxury vehicles, for its top bosses for which it also sought tax exemption. Reliable information from ATCL alleged that the money to buy the vehicles for the companys top bosses was part of the rescue package from the government and that apparently the decision was made by the management in collaboration with the Board. The actual value of the luxury, four-wheel drive vehicles, locally referred to as Mashangingi, is yet to be established, but experts say it is likely to be over 2billion/-, at the current price of 120million/- for a Landcruiser model imported from Japan. Infrastructure Development ministry Permanent secretary Engineer Omar Chambo, confirmed the purchase of 15 to 20 Landcruisers from Japan, saying the ministry was investigating the matter. He also confirmed the allegations that the vehicles were for the use of the companys top bosses. He said he had ordered the relevant documents from ATCL and that the ministrys auditors were working on them to establish the source of the funds to buy the vehicles and the people involved in the scam. He termed the purchase as irresponsible in light of the state of the airline company, which has been surviving on government subsidy since its establishment. We will take action against the people involved in the purchase. We are not ready to entertain this behaviour, he said. Chambo said everyone was aware of the state of ATCL and the measures being taken to rescue it. Tanzania Revenue Authority officials who asked for anonymity, confirmed to The Guardian that the posh vehicles were lying at the port, saying they were now lined up for auction after efforts by officials from the airlines management and board to secure tax exemption failed. When asked whether he was aware that the vehicles were lined up for auctioning by TRA, Chambo said he did not know of any such move, but promised to follow up the matter. Sources at the Treasury told this paper that ATCL continued to be a taxpayers burden, as it continued to operate at a loss, relying on government subsidy. The source expressed serious concern at the possible misuse of the subsidy the company was drawing from the Treasury, calling for urgent investigation of the use of the funds. The source however declined to say how much the government has so far spent on ATCL. Commenting on the status of the company, Chambo said negotiations between the government and the Chinese firm which has shown interest to invest in ATCL are still on and going well. He explained that the government was being careful in the negotiations to avoid a repeat of the mistakes made in the pact with the South African Airways. The TRA Director of Taxpayers Education, Evod Mmanda told this paper that he was not aware of any ATCL vehicles lined up for auctioning, adding that when it came to auctioning, it was not their concern who the vehicle belonged to. We normally focus on getting the due revenue. We dont care who the vehicle belongs to. We run auctions regularly, so it is hard to establish which auction involves whose cars , he said. A spot check by The Guardian at the Dar es Salaam port established that the vehicles were still lying there. No official was however ready to show this reporter where they were being kept, but one of the port workers hinted: We know where they are, but we cant show you. One or two of them has been cleared he alleged.