Pakistan News

NAB directed to probe financial irregularities in construction of Islamabad airport baggage terminal

NAB directed to probe financial irregularities in construction of Islamabad airport baggage terminal

The Senate's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to probe allegations of financial misconduct surrounding the construction of the baggage terminal at Islamabad's new Airport.

After reviewing audit reports concerning the aviation sector, the PAC directed NAB to complete the inquiry within three months.

The meeting, led by PAC Chairman Khursheed Shah, was briefed that misappropriations had been made in the construction of the baggage terminal at the new Islamabad airport.

Shah, who is also the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, said that the cost of the terminal was mentioned as Rs3.9 billion in the project's Planning Commission Form 1 (PC-1), but its actual cost had clocked in at Rs6.5 billion.

Audit officials explained to the committee that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had issued the tender for the project without obtaining a licence from the Engineering Council. The CAA applied for a license after issuing the tender, resulting in a three-year delay in the project, the auditors said.

The delay in the project affected its cost, the officials said, adding that the Engineering Council was to be blamed since it had declared that any institution would not issue tenders without first obtaining a licence.

Shah nonetheless said that it was evident from the audit reports that Rs1.5 billion had been embezzled in the project. He went on to allege that out of the three companies who had submitted tenders, two were removed from the competition after being lured into some other contracts.

Senator Azam Sawati likewise alleged that the rules and regulations were violated to provide undue favour to a particular company.

This is the first case being referred by the PAC to NAB after the appointment of a new chairman for the latter.

The PAC has also ordered an audit of catering tenders, recruitment of consultants and online ticketing by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) over the last three years.

"All those involved in corruption [...] [will] be apprehended," Shah told reporters after the meeting.

He held the PIA administration responsible for the losses of the national flag carrier, dismissing the view that over-employment in the company had added to its losses.

To the contrary, Shah blamed the top brass of PIA for receiving "excessive salaries".

"The top officers receive 4 per cent, whereas the lower cadre employees only get 5pc of the total annual expenditure of the national airline. The issue is that innocent people are held accountable for the misdeeds of some influential people," he said, adding that the PAC has now decided to hold corrupt elements accountable.

Earlier, the Aviation Secretary had told the committee that PIA has paid Rs18 million for its employees' foreign visits during the last one year. The national flag carrier paid Rs6 million for 99-days of foreign trips of its former chief executive officer, Rs2.4 million for 50 days of foreign trips by its purchasing director and Rs1.7 million for 33 days of trips for its IT director.

According to CAA officials' estimates, the figures exclude ticket prices. The total amount of foreign visits would clock in at Rs36mn if the tickets charges are included in the cost.

On Tuesday, the PAC had also reviewed the issue of a PIA plane sold out to a German museum. The committee also took notice of the construction of 15 bridges for passengers at the new Islamabad International Airport. Audit officials told the PAC that irregularities worth Rs5.99 billion have been found in the contracts for the construction of these bridges.

According to their findings, the cost of the bridges was mentioned as Rs2.57bn in the project's PC-1, whereas the CAA engineers had estimated the actual cost of the project at Rs4.77bn.

Shah has constituted a four-member committee, which will be chaired by Senator Sherry Rahman, to look into the matter.

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