Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker sparked off a tense debate about the structure of airline industry body IATA and its finances during a conference of airline bosses in Singapore this week.In a dramatic early session of IATA’s annual general meeting, the International Air Transport Association came under fire for appearing to be “run for the few, by the few” and lacking full transparency.Al Baker led a vocal onslaught by a number of international airlines over IATA’s purported failure to show clear transparency in its processes. He questioned the auditing process for IATA’s 2010 financial statement, and later questioned the “surprise” nomination of Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan to fill the extra seat created to broaden the representation of carriers from the Middle East on IATA’s board.Al Baker highlighted some of IATA’s expenditure, including US$18 million on travel, US$58 million on data processing and IT and US $29 million on outsourcing and consultancy. He called on IATA to justify “such large sums spent on travel” and the processes by which consultant and outsourcing contracts were awarded.Al Baker backed a motion for IATA to reconsider the appointment of its auditors, having been unconvinced about the industry body’s financial accounts and auditing process.Regarding the nomination of Hogan, Al Baker told the AGM: “We believe such issues should not be surprises. Firstly, such decisions should be transparent and secondly, if geographical representation is the basis of the composition of the board, the regional airlines involved should be informed in advance of their regional allotments so that they can coordinate who should represent them.”Emirates called for greater dialogue to ensure IATA was more transparent while International Airlines Group, the holding company of British Airways, sought clarity on the entire voting process of board members.The debates created an unusual a level of tension during the normally carefully orchestrated morning sessions of IATA AGMs.
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