Left hand investigating the right at aviation regulatory body

Kathmandu, December 30

Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal continues to engage in bizarre practices, if the recent charade in which an investigation into a financial issue was conducted is anything to go by.

CAAN, which is headed by a sitting minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation, is the statutory authority on matters related to civil aviation.The investigation into the incumbent general manager’s financial handling of the country’s sole international airport without suspending the concerned officials for possible destruction of evidence by a committee headed by the chief of CAAN’s corporate directorate is being seen as a joke.

According to the stakeholders, the corporate directorate itself is responsible for the financial oversight of Tribhuvan International Airport, but it has substantially erred in discharging its duties while the chief, a former TIA general manager, also didn’t do much to improve the charges regulations while he ruled the roost not long ago.  “It is clearly the case of the left hand investigating the right,” a senior CAAN official reacted.

The Civil Aviation Authority Act of 1996 solely recognises the CAAN’s director general as the chief executive officer and therefore all the responsibility and accountability rest solely with the position.

“Interestingly, contrary to the provisions of the Act, the Airport Charges Regulations-2009 places the onus of timely collection of revenues on airport chief whilst also authorising him to prohibit flight operations of the air operator against whom the bill of charges has been raised, if needed,” a revenue department official at TIA said.

The regulations, however, do not require the revenues department to bill the airline within a given time-frame, thus deliberately allowing the unsightly scenario at TIA, he claimed, adding that the need to review the regulations was obviously forgotten, perhaps in a mad rush to assume the mantle of director general of the authority for its numerous perks and prestige as well as that of the influential general manager of the TIA.

Besides, a semi-government office like CAAN also has typical safeguards in place such as periodic financial audits of the airport accounts and therefore CAAN’s head office not raising the red flag against the reported unrealised revenues, if any, in earlier audits clearly reeks of connivance and therefore corruption, the TIA official said.

The airlines are obviously more than willing to defer paying the significant charges, as this gives them the leeway to play with the cash, whilst throwing titbits to TIA and CAAN higher-ups in the name of upgrades of air tickets to business class as well as various tour packages to their respective countries, a former CAAN’s director general recounted.

“Chucking the Good Governance Act straight out of the window, the mechanism of objective oversight is completely lost when the supervision agencies of CAAN, including MoCTCA and appallingly even some constitutional bodies are more than eager to direct TIA’s general manager to avail them the coveted upgrades as well.” However, Board of Airline Representatives in Nepal has already claimed that airlines operating in Nepal have been making a regular payment to TIA following all due procedures.