The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday grilled Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials on irregularities in the construction of the new Islamabad International Airport and five grounded aircraft belonging to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
PAC Chairman Khursheed Shah asked how PIA was obtaining aircraft on lease while five of its existing planes remained grounded. The secretary aviation informed the committee that a Boeing 777 had been grounded due to the unavailability of its engine. However, the engine has since been acquired and the plane will likely begin operations by the end of November, he said. Another aircraft, an A-320, will also be functional by December 15 after replacement engines arrive, he added.
The PPP’s Sherry Rehman then asked what was being done about losses to the tune of Rs1 billion incurred following the closure of the national flag carrier’s ‘Premier’ service. She also asked why parking contracts for the airports were being outsourced and whether current employees would lose their jobs because of the decision.
The secretary aviation responded that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was looking into the shuttering of the Premier service and clarified that outsourcing parking contracts was a standard procedure across the globe and that no employees would be laid off in the process.
Audit officials later informed the committee that a contract worth Rs660m for a dam near the new Islamabad airport was given to an unqualified contractor who submitted faked documents and was not even registered with the Pakistan Engineering Council.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Arif Alvi asked how a party with no experience building dams was given a contract for one.
Fellow party member Shafqat Mehmood observed that the construction of the new Islamabad airport was being constantly delayed and huge scandals around it were gradually coming forward. “Has a case been registered against anyone or has anyone been punished?” he asked.
The CAA officials explained to the lawmakers that the airport was a greenfield project for which they had no expertise, which had caused problems. However, they assured that it would be made operational and was just awaiting a Metro Bus route and a baggage handling system.
The Metro Bus route will be operational by December 25, the committee was informed.
The committee chair then asked why a metro route was being extended to the new airport. “Will the passengers come to the airport in metro buses or in cars?” Shah asked.
The PAC subsequently called for a report on the irregularities in the construction of the dam, to be submitted in three months after investigation by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The PAC also ordered an inquiry over irregularities in the construction of the baggage terminal at the airport last month.