Twenty-eight out of 32 pilot cadets had failed the tests but Biman recruited them anyway.
Biman officials gave them “grace marks” and then manipulated viva exams to give them the jobs, according to a first information report the Anti-Corruption Commission filed against four incumbent and former Biman officials.
Even before the tests, the then Biman authorities relaxed the minimum educational qualification and age limits to allow less qualified candidates to apply, it said, adding that one of the recruits is the nephew of Biman’s former managing director Abul Munim Mosaddique Ahmed who was forced to quit.
SM Helal, former president of Bangladesh Airlines Pilots Association (BAPA), said, “In aviation, ensuring quality of prospective candidates is a must … the then administration compromised the quality which is tantamount to compromising passenger safety.”
“Due to compromise in quality, an aircraft and its passengers might be put at risk,” Helal added.
Some of the recruits have already completed training and some were being trained, a top Biman official said.
Yesterday, ACC Assistant Director Saiful Islam filed the case with the ACC integrated district office against Mosaddique, former acting managing director Capt Farhat Hasan Jamil, incumbent principal of Bangladesh Airlines Training Centre Partha Kumar Pandit, and Manager (recruitment) Fakhrul Hossain Chowdhury.
The Daily Star obtained a copy of the FIR.
Saiful, who is also the enquiry officer of the case, found that the written and multiple-choice question (MCQ) tests, each of 100 marks, had 10 and 20 “grace marks”.
A candidate needed 60 and 50 to pass.
Of the 103 that sat for the exams on December 22, last year, 72 “passed” and Biman recruited 32 of them through viva exams.
Without the “grace marks” taken into account, only four of the recruits passed both the exams and five failed both the tests, according to the case statement.
The other 23 had passed the written test but failed the MCQ test.
Mosaddique’s nephew got 72 and 55 in the written and MCQ tests, including the “grace marks”. “He was given the grace marks so that he passed,” said an ACC official.
The FIR said a 10-member committee held the viva exams between January 20 and January 22. The exam had 100 marks, which is unprecedented in recruitment for government service.
The pass mark for viva is 25, according to the Operation Manual of Biman but even that is not followed.
“It is an instance of gross irregularities and corruption,” read the FIR.
The candidates had to be between 18 and 30 years old and in case of children of freedom fighters up to 32 years. But the members of the selection committee raised the age limit to 40.
Biman published two recruitment circulars on September 18, 2018, and September 19, 2018, for pilots for short- to medium-range Boeing 737s and Bombardier Dash-8s.
According to the circular, the minimum GPA in Physics and Mathematics in HSC or equivalent was set to 3.00. But Biman published another circular on October 9, 2018, lowering the minimum GPA to 2.4 for A-level candidates.
The FIR said 30 candidates, including Mosaddique’s nephew, were able to apply because of this and Biman recruited 13 of them.
Ex BAPA chief SM Helal said, “The whole country and the whole world witnessed the shameful event which tarnished Biman’s image. The persons involved in the irregularities should get exemplary punishment.”
Asked whether Biman would take any action against the recruits, Biman Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Mokabbir Hossain said the Board of Directors of Biman have already approved their appointments.
“Many of the cadets have joined their jobs as first officers after training and the rest are receiving training.
“At this moment, we have no way to decide something fresh regarding the recruited pilots.”
He claimed that he was not aware of the 13 cadets who, according to the ACC, were recruited under relaxed terms.
The Biman MD said operations of the national carrier would be hampered if he took action against those pilots.
Aviation expert Kazi Wahidul Alam said stern actions should be taken against the officials involved in the pilot recruiting process.
Asked if those pilots were a threat to safety, he said a pilot becomes capable after proper training and flying an aircraft for certain number of hours. Biman has to spend a lot on their training.
“I think the Biman board should take all these matters into consideration in the case of taking actions against those recruits,” he added.
Biman incurred a loss of Tk 201 crore in 2017-18 fiscal year due to widespread corruption, irregularities, and mismanagement.
The civil aviation ministry has recently revealed several incidents of corruption and irregularities in different sections of Biman, including recruitment of pilots, ticket selling, and leasing planes.
Following these, the ministry moved to overhaul Biman management and make Biman a profitable venture, Civil Aviation Ministry Secretary Mohibul Haque told The Daily Star recently.
Mosaddique was forced to resign on April 30 for his alleged involvement in irregularities in the recruitment of pilots, sources in the ministry said.
Spreading its wings in 1972, Biman has been incurring loss most of the years due to corruption and mismanagement, aviation experts said.
In the last 10 years, Biman made profits only in three fiscal years -- 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17.
Amid widespread allegations of anomalies, the Jatiya Sangsad committee on civil aviation in 2010 had formed a five-member parliamentary sub-committee to probe the irregularities and corruption.
Led by late lawmaker Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal, the sub-committee found corruption involving Tk 700 crore in the purchase and maintenance of aircraft and equipment of Biman in 18 years prior to 2010.
Badal in the sub-committee report said there was graft in every section of Biman.
Despite repeated attempts, The Daily Star last night could not get in touch with Mosaddique, his nephew, Capt Farhat, principal of BATC Partha Kumar Pandit, and Manager Fakhrul for comments.