AIR Zimbabwe chief executive officer Peter Chikumba allegedly cancelled a deal clinched last year by the state airline with an Italian firm, Avio Interior
, to supply new plane seats and awarded it to a United States company, American General Supplies (AGS), which has since supplied second-hand seats at a higher cost, businessdigest can reveal.
According to reliable Air Zimbabwe sources, Chikumba cancelled the deal in February despite the payment of a US$250 000 deposit by the airline. The deal had gone to tender before being clinched by the Italian company which has since refused to refund the deposit citing breach of contract.
“Chikumba cancelled the contract when he arrived in February,” a source said. “This was despite the fact that it had gone to tender. He then gave the same contract to AGS. Avio Interior then refused to refund the deposit and said they wanted Air Zimbabwe to make good their end of the bargain, but Chikumba refused.”
Chikumba is said to have awarded the deal to AGS, which was paid US$1,1 million in three installments of US$360 000 for the supply of the second-hand seats. The payments were made through the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Contacted for comment, Chikumba — responding through Air Zimbabwe spokesperson David Mwenga — confirmed that the contract with Avio Interior had been cancelled and that the airline had settled for second-hand seats.
“Last year Air Zimbabwe made an order and paid for a deposit for B737 seats with Avio Interior of Italy,” said Mwenga. “The airline revised its position and repealed the order following a realisation that given the age of the aircraft, it was not prudent to buy completely new and expensive seats when refurbished and less expensive seats would be equally durable and attractive,” said Mwenga.
Mwenga said the decision to cancel the order with Avio Interior had been made before Chikumba’s arrival at the airline in February.
“Although the order was placed with another company after his arrival, the decision to cancel the contract with Avio Interior was taken before Dr Chikumba’s arrival at the airline. American General Supplies has indeed supplied the aircraft seats (at more attractive price) on the basis of their past relationship with Air Zimbabwe, ” Mwenga said.
Mwenga also said AGS had been a long-running supplier of the airline for the past seven years and scoffed at the alleged connection between Air Zimbabwe and Chikumba’s wife.
“AGS has been one of the most consistent and most competitive international aircraft spares suppliers for Air Zimbabwe for the past seven years, during which Dr Chikumba has not been with the airline,” Mwenga said.
Over the years Air Zimbabwe has had more than its fair share of troubles and last week was reported to have been serving inadequate food on its flights as a consequence of government’s June 18 directive to slash prices.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke apologised profusely last Monday to a visiting Chinese delegation which had to fly from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg to get a flight to Harare. Flights between Harare and Victoria Falls have been fully booked since the price freeze was announced.