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PAC grills aviation official over grounded planes

PAC grills aviation official over grounded planes

ISLAMABAD: The Pub­lic Accounts Committee (PAC) was surprised to note on Tuesday that the national flag carrier is obtaining new planes while five of its aircraft were recently grounded.

PAC chairman Syed Khursheed Shah asked how the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was leasing aircraft while its existing planes were grounded. In response, the aviation secretary told the committee that a Boeing 777 had been grounded because its engine was unavailable, but the engine had since been acquired and the plane would likely begin operations by the end of this month.

Another aircraft, an A-320, would be functional by Dec 15 after its replacement engines arrived, he added.

Senator Sherry Rehman asked about the losses PIA has suffered due to the sudden close of its premier service. She also asked why parking contracts for airports were being outsourced, and whether current employees would lose their jobs because of this decision.

Audit officials told the committee that a contract worth Rs660 million for a dam near the new Islamabad airport was given to an unqualified contractor who submitted fake documents and was not registered with the Pakistan Engineering Council.

Dr Arif Alvi asked how a contractor with no experience building dams was given the contract.

Shafqat Mehmood also observed at the meeting that the construction of the new airport was being delayed constantly, and scandals around it were gradually coming forth.

“Has a case been registered against anyone, or has anyone been punished?” he asked.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials said the airport was a greenfield project for which they had no expertise, which had caused problems. However, they assured the committee that the airport would be made operational, and was just awaiting a metro bus route and a baggage handling system. The committee was told that the metro bus route would be operational by Dec 25.

Mr Shah then asked why a metro bus route was being extended to the airport. “Will passengers come to the airport in metro buses or in cars?” he asked.

Mr Shah criticised the CAA’s management for its failure to take strong disciplinary action against consultants and contractors responsible for escalating the project cost of the new airport from the initial Rs37 billion to Rs100 billion, APP reported.

The PAC chairman also directed the National Accountability Bureau to take further action against the accused after the completion of CAA’s inquiries against them.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2017

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