Pakistan Senate’s Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday directed the federal anti-graft body to probe allegations of financial misconduct surrounding the construction of Islamabad’s new international airport.
The parliamentary committee found ‘irregularities’ in the award of contract for the under-construction new airport by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The revelations were made during a meeting of the committee that was examining an audit para related to the construction of the airport, report local daily Express Tribune. It was the first high-profile case of ‘irregularities’ surfaced during the scrutiny of the latest audit reports of the PML-N government’s third year in power, it said.
The CAA awarded the contract worth Rs6 billion to a firm on the instructions of a former aide to prime minister on aviation at 232% higher rates, the paper report.
After reviewing audit reports, the committee directed the National Accountability Bureau (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 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 jumped up to Rs6.5 billion.
The New Islamabad International Airport is under construction and its total cost has jumped from Rs36 billion to Rs81 billion. It is believed that the cost may go further up in the future. The airport was expected to be inaugurated in August. The inauguration is now expected to take place after 9 months to a year from now, according to a source.
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 favor to a particular company.
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. This matter may also be probed, said a source on condition of anonymity.
On Tuesday, the PAC had also reviewed the issue of a PIA plane sold out to a German museum, report Dawn.