CAAN squandering away Japanese grant on frivolous activities

KATHMANDU: As this daily investigates the deeper malaise afflicting the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and air safety in the country, astonishing facts keep emerging from deep closets.

This time the matter concerns the squandering away of grant assistance being received from countries such as Japan on frivolous activities, including on the Project for Development of a Spare Parts Management Centre and En-route Radar Control Services, for which exchange of notes between the two governments were signed in 2013.

As is evident from the public statement of 2013 by the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu, one of the objectives of the much publicised US$ 9.68 million worth project is the establishment of a Spare Parts Management Centre at Tribhuvan International Airport.

Astonishing facts keep emerging from deep CAAN closets

CAAN claims sufficient expertise in the regulatory oversight of management of aircraft spare parts by its air operators, where the demands of cataloguing and storage of parts that go in to an aircraft are exceedingly stringent and air transport industry norms exist for the same. However, on the other hand, it resorts to seeking Japanese assistance for the same when it comes to managing stores for spare parts for airport equipment that do not enjoy the status of airworthiness.

In fact, under the past Japanese grant assistance for installation of the radar in 1997-98 under which Japanese experts worked at TIA for five years, Japanese industry practices was indeed put to use, a TIA officer admitted. “Besides, the equipment used to support air navigation in Nepali airspace under communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS), categories are procured as well as maintained by TIA and other CNS departments of CAAN,” he said, adding that significant but separate budgetary appropriations were made to these entities by CAAN for the procurement of spares, sometimes of identical equipment.

More often than not, the departments are also known to embark on a buying spree for spares, mostly unnecessary, for the purpose of ‘finishing’ the sanctioned amount so that the accompanying commission can be enjoyed, else the funds get routed to some other productive departments, a senior CAAN director revealed while talking to this daily this afternoon.

With this backdrop, clearly, the intent of the Japanese funded project for a common spare parts repository stands utterly defeated, for no one with a right state of mind would want to kill the goose that lays golden eggs, another senior TIA executive admitted.

According to him, the senior volunteers for such JICA administered projects in civil aviation are deputed from the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau, the regulator as well the administrator of Japanese air space.

Interestingly, JCAB and CAAN share what is commonly referred to as a ‘conflict of interest’ in the industry as they both wear two hats — regulator as well as a services provider.

“However, the similarity ends just here. JCAB with its unblemished air safety record does not have the unenviable task of clearing its significant safety concerns designated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation or the European Union ban, for the legendary Japanese social values and accompanying discipline finds no match in Nepal,” an industry observer remarked.

The only visible outcome of the project is the all-paid travel to Japan by a dozen CAAN engineers and air traffic controllers, favourites of the picky CAAN management for ‘observing’ Japanese practices, a delegate who visited Japan added. “CAAN clearly has gotten its priorities wrong and therefore to expect any significant improvement in any of the key areas of civil aviation would be naïve,” another CAAN engineer concluded.