Another scandal!


WEB DESK: Construction of the New Islamabad International Airport has turned out to be yet another sordid tale of delays, mismanagement, and dishonest practices.

The project was to be up and running by December 2011, but is now to be completed by the end of the current year at huge cost overruns. Briefing the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) acknowledged at this late date, that there is a serious design error, “a criminal error” according to a PAC member, in the construction of two parallel runways. And that after construction was completed, technical experts pointed out that the distance between them should have been a little over one kilometre, but they are 200 meters apart.

That would impede simultaneous plane landings and take-offs. He also told PAC that the flaw should have been corrected at the initial stage but was ignored.

This new airport for the capital is supposed to be the country’s biggest, capable of handling nine million passengers per year against the old airport’s 4.5 million and the other international travel hub Karachi’s capacity to cope with six million air travellers. The faulty runway design will affect CAA’s ability to handle increase in traffic, which is going to keep increasing with the passage of time. Explaining the bungle up, the CAA chief told the PAC that a US-based company was awarded the contract to build the runways.

That would suggest an American company was picked on the basis of its advanced technical know-how. However, the same DG had informed a Supreme Court bench three years ago that the company did not possess necessary qualifications. And furthermore, that it had only three engineers in Pakistan, who also lacked required qualifications. A press report quoting a CAA audit report now says that none of the 12 engineering consultants hired for the job holds an engineering degree; they include a homoeopathic doctor, simple graduates, or diploma holders in electrical or civil engineering. The audit report, presented before the PAC last week blamed these consultants for the project’s massive cost overruns.

Considering that this has gone on under three different governments, (the project was initiated by the Musharraf government) it may not be easy to fix responsibility. Still it should not be difficult to identify those who awarded the contract to an unreliable foreign firm, and hired non-professionals for the highly professional engineering work. The scandal needs to be properly investigated.

The CAA chief cannot just talk of wastage of money, bad design, and a belated inspection by experts declaring the runways construction as defective; he should also provide answers. Whosoever it is, that is responsible for mismanagement, or dishonest conduct, ought to be named, shamed and awarded exemplary punishment.

Source: Business Recorder