Cost Escalates To Rs 105 Billion: JIT To Probe NIIA Corruption Case

Business Recorder

The federal minister for aviation in consensus with the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation has decided to constitute a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe into the matter of corruption in New Islamabad International Airport as the project cost escalated to Rs 105 billion against the initial PC-1 of Rs 38 billion.

The parliamentary panel met here with Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan in the chair here on Wednesday where the matter of corruption came under discussion.

Federal Minister for Civil Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan informed the committee that the cabinet has constituted a subcommittee which is overseeing the matter. The committee is headed by the minister for aviation and comprising minister of law and justice, minister for interior, special assistant to prime minister on accountability and special assistant to prime minister on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development. The committee is expected to finalize its deliberations regarding the issues pertaining to New Islamabad Airport within a month. The deliberations of the committee will be placed before the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation as soon as these are finalized.

However, the mover of the point expressed his dissatisfaction over the delay and inadequate responses given to the question of taking those responsible in corruption to task.

The ministry informed the committee that several inquiries are still in place on the issue internally in Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as well as some arbitration is going on and final response can be given after they reach some substantial conclusion.

The committee directed that the report on the matter had to be submitted to the committee in one month and if still it hasn’t come, an interim report should come to this committee in the next one month. The committee also recommended that ideally the inquiry should be conducted by only one agency or through a joint investigation committee otherwise there can be contradictory conclusions and more time will be taken in completion. The minister for aviation agreed to the recommendation and decided to constitute the JIT on the matter.

The committee observed that the review committee of the PIAC should maintain uniform criteria to deal with the cases of fake degrees of the PIA employees and action should be simultaneously taken against those officers and board members who appointed those people with fake degrees.

The committee also observed that the earlier directions were not to give strongest punishment of termination but to give lighter punishments to employees who have had longer services.

The committee was told by the head of the review committee that the cases of fake degrees were divided in three categories and out of the 650 cases, 15 persons were called for physical appearance before the committee and documents of 300 people were reviewed by the committee. The committee chairman remarked that there are still at least 12 people still working in the PIA on fake degrees of similar nature.

The panel asked the review committee to submit to the committee information about grade-wise categorization of employees who were terminated or given any other punishment with categorization of the punishment as well and whether they were given or they utilized the opportunity to review and whether any special consideration was given to hardship cases. Further it directed to provide information whether there were cases of double punishment or different punishments for similar charges.

The committee also discussed the issue of agreement executed between PCAA and M/s Air Ciro regarding compulsory wrapping of the check-in baggage at all airports. The director PIA told the committee that the decision has been withdrawn after seeing the difficulties faced by passengers and the wrapping is now optional and price has been reduced.

The committee observed that the matter is not as simple as it is being presented. The members of the committee were of the view that the details of agreement, tendering process and the contractors be shared with the committee. It was also pointed out that once the tender is finalized, the terms and conditions cannot be changed and by changing the price, Civil Aviation has violated the PPRA rules.

While briefing the committee on the proposed bifurcation of Civil Aviation Authority, the secretary aviation told the committee that some functions of the CAA brought conflict of interest in the regularity and services function. He said that no one will be laid off and no one will be affected in terms of service structure and the only change as result of bifurcation will be in terms of administration. He also said that the consolidated fund for salaries and other uses will also stay the same. The proposal will go to the ECC for discussion. He assured the committee that the reports of giving functions to private entities are based on misconceptions.

Regarding the incident of crash landing at Gilgit airport, the committee was told that the internal inquiry of the PIA found that there was no technical problem in the aircraft and the burden is on the pilot because she landed with high speed and she should have done a go-around. The committee was told that the pilot is a thoroughly trained one and an instructor as well and there is no issue of competency or experience. She, however, has been suspended till the completion of inquiry.

The committee also adopted the report of the subcommittee about two issues of the PIA employees on pension policy and harassment at workplace. The committee was told that initially there was no concept of pensions in the PIA but currently the PIA is disbursing Rs 1.8 billion annually in the head of pensions. The committee was told that proposal of increasing pensions at 36% was taken to board and after long deliberations the board agreed at 15% increase. The committee directed to take the matter to the board meeting again and also asked for a comparative analysis of pension percentages in other companies of similar nature. The committee decided to call the victims and the alleged harasser in the next meeting on the harassment at workplace incident.

The meeting was attended among others by Senators Sherry Rehman, Nauman Wazir Khattak, Behramand Tangi, Muzaffar Hussain Shah, Manzoor Kakar, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and Faisal Javed Khan, Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar, secretary aviation, and officers from PIA, aviation and other relevant government departments.

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