New Islamabad Airport: Several corruption charges emerge

New Islamabad Airport: Several corruption charges emerge

ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee directed on Tuesday the anti-graft body to hold an inquiry into the award of contract for construction of a small dam at the New Benazir Bhutto International Airport to a firm that did not have technical expertise for the job.

The contract, valued at Rs664.4 million, is just the tip of the iceberg that shows how the government departments handled a project whose cost has already drastically increased from Rs35 billion to over Rs100 billion.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had awarded the contract to Hasan Construction despite the fact that the company was not registered with the Pakistan Engineering Council and submitted fake experience documents, the Director General of Audit informed the PAC.

The decision to construct the dam at the site of New Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad, was taken after authorities suddenly came to know that there was no water available at the project site. The dam is designed to provide 3.3 million gallons of water per day.

When the auditors found out that the work had been awarded on fake documents, the CAA came up with the excuse that “documents were mistakenly attached with the profile of the contractor”, according to the DG.

However, the Secretary Aviation Division confessed before the PAC that the contactor did not have the experience and the contract was awarded due to connivance of the CAA and project management officials.

The PAC directed the National Accountability Bureau to investigate the deal and submit the report in three months. “If the NAB cannot give a report in three months, we would believe that it is also involved in it,” said Syed Khursheed Shah, chairman of the PAC.

The PAC proceedings further revealed that Hasas Construction had been selected by the CAA officials by excluding the consultant from the whole exercise.

The exclusion of the consultant from the prequalification of the bidder was the incriminating evidence of corruption in award of the contract, observed Shah.

The members of the PAC apprehended that due to lack of experience of the contractor, the dam may not be able to sustain the aftermaths of any earthquake, which could be disastrous for the surrounding areas.

The contractor had made a false claim that it undertook two hydro projects in Turkey but the CAA never asked for any documentary proof, according to the DG Audit.

Instead of taking corrupt officials to the task, the Secretary Aviation Division has been protecting the corrupt elements. Secretary Aviation said that an inquiry has been ordered to determine the facts in the case.

The CAA has handed over five inquires to one officer who cannot complete it on time, said Zafar Hasan Raza, the acting Auditor General of Pakistan.

The construction of the New Benazir Bhutto International Airport is marred with various scandals and so far, three inquiry reports have been finalised by the Planning Commission, one independent and another by Federal Investigation Agency.

The Secretary Aviation Division could not give one example where any official had been taken to task due to mismanagement of the project and corruption in award of deals.

The director general of CAA insisted that the CAA did not have experience in construction of a green field airport and that is why its cost tripled to over Rs100 billion. The PAC did not accept his excuse.

The PAC members also did not like the CAA’s move to outsource the three international airports to foreign parties.

In presence of a bloated organisation, it is not a rationale move to outsource the job to private parties, said Shafqat Mehmood of PTI. So much so, the CAA has hired consultants to further hire consultants.

The PAC was of the view that outsourcing works better in organisations that have a small number of employees. It ordered an audit of the CAA to determine its performance.