New airport to be completed by 2015, SC told

New airport to be completed by 2015, SC told
New airport to be completed by 2015, SC told

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was told on Tuesday that the New Benazir Bhutto International Airport (NBBIA) would not be ready before April 2015, whereas first deadline of this project was December 2011.

Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) counsel Afnan Kundi has told the three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry that the airport will not be ready before April 2015.Expressing annoyance over the role of the CAA in delaying the project, the bench has summoned the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP) to explain the government’s stance over alleged corruption and irregularities in the construction of NBBIA as well as alleged illegal appointment of the CAA director general.

During the hearing, Kundi lamented that the CAA was facing lack of cooperation from both the federal as well as the Punjab governments since the work had not yet started for the construction of the access road to the airport or the installation of 132 kV GIS (Gas Insulated Switchgear) grid station and transmission line by the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) or the provision of water since the region was a water-scarce area. The nearest dam from where the water could be supplied to the airport is 17km away for which pipeline has to be laid, he said, adding that the work on the pipeline had not started.

Kundi informed the court that the CAA, which was building the airport from its own resources, had paid a hefty amount of Rs 32 billion to different contractors, whereas an amount of one billion rupees was still pending in the shape of running bills. But the expected cost escalation, according to the project management consultants, was Rs 83 billion.The chief justice observed that the affect of the delay in the completion of the project had come in the shape of exorbitant escalation in its cost and said the court was only interested in ensuring that the venture was corruption-free.

The CAA blamed the project management consultant (PMC) Louise Berger for its failure to submit design validation report contrary to the provisions of the contract agreement since not a single report had been submitted.Advocate Uzair Bhindari, representing the PMC, claimed that 63 percent work had been completed at the project site, but blamed the CAA for the delays, adding that the construction work started at the site of the new airport without final design that came in different stages, piecemeal.

Meanwhile, Additional Attorney General Shah Khawar told the court about a decision taken by the government on July 10 to refer the case to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and probe into the escalation of cost and delay in the timely completion of the new airport.The entire report compiled by Planning Commission Member Lt Gen (r) Shahid Niaz, as head of the five-member inquiry committee which pointed to a number of reasons for the delay in the project, had been referred to FIA’s investigating officer Aurengzeb Khan, the AAG said.

The January 23, 2013 Shahid Niaz inquiry report, initiated on the directives of the CAA’s board meeting of April 16, 2012, had highlighted different reasons, including the tendency of taking arbitrary decisions, for the delay in the process of award of contracts and execution of work at the new airport in the project. The report was presented before the Supreme Court on July 9. The bench, however, expressed its disappointment and observed that the entire exercise was done to frustrate the proceedings in the Supreme Court. It also summoned the AGP to assist the court and adjourned the hearing. – DailyTimes