EDITORIAL: Questionable deal

This questionable deal should be investigated, the truth found out, and correction made accordingly

There is much controversy about Nepal Airlines Corporation’s (NAC) deal with the United States-based leasing company AAR Corp for buying two wide-body  Airbus A330-200 aircraft. The NAC had chosen to buy the two aircraft from the concerned agent at a total cost of Rs. 22 billion.  The NAC says it had to do this through a global bidding process after the Airbus, a manufacturing company, did not participate in the bidding process this time around. The purchase was made by the NAC which would be transferring about eight billion rupees to the AAR Corp next month. This was done without any bond or bank guarantee from the supplier. As per the provisions a bank guarantee is necessary as the per the Public Procurement Act of the country. Thus, the clarification by Sugat Ratna Kansakar, the NAC MD, that according to the financial regulations of NAC, such is allowed without a bank guarantee. But thus purchasing aircraft does not hold water as it clearly goes against the Public Procurement Act. Furthermore, the NAC is a public corporation requiring it to stick to the law and regulations stringently.

In this case, the manufacturing company, Airbus, is not involved in  supplying of the aircraft. Previously, the NAC had bought narrow-body aircraft directly from the manufacturer. The NAC has committed to buy the two aircraft without verifying how reliable the agent, AAR Corp, was and whether it would be able to supply the two wide-body aircraft in the given time frame of one year. The NAC on the other hand claims that the manufacturing company, Airbus, has said the AAR Corp has placed an order for the aircraft in an e-mail correspondence.

Although the supplier has assured the NAC that it would be supplying both the aircraft within a year from a Portugal based airline company, the Hi Fly, the supplier claims that the Hi Fly   has cancelled one order. Meanwhile, the Portuguese company states that it has not cancelled any order so far. This is a confusing situation after the NAC had sought through a tender second-hand aircraft that has flown for a duration of 1,000 hours. It is better to purchase new aircraft from the manufacturer than via a third party from various points of view, including safety, reliability, assurance and cost. The NAC would be paying for the aircraft in two installments. It has so far sent one million dollars to AAR Corp for the aircraft. The NAC always seems to raise much controversy in the purchase of aircraft. Previously it had bought the aircraft directly from the manufacturers. In this case, it says the board sent the commitment fee only after ascertaining that the AAR Corp would be delivering the two brand new aircraft. However, in this dealing the reliability of the supplier AAR Corp is questionable as it claims that the Hi Fly company had cancelled one of its orders. The NAC says that the deal with AAR Corp was sealed as it had quoted the lowest price for the aircraft. The NAC board, chaired by the secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, had chosen the agent AAR Corp. This questionable deal should be investigated, the truth found out, and correction made accordingly.

Primate study

The Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) is all set to launch a behavioural study of primates in the Pashupati area to determine whether they are causing any harm to pilgrims. The trust is conducting the study in response to a Supreme Court verdict which directed the trust to do the needful to control havoc caused by the monkeys who are mingled with pilgrims and sometimes snatch food and fruits to be offered to the Lord Pashupatinath. Hindus consider the primates as friends, not enemy, and also offer food and fruits from their share of offerings to Lord Shiva.

A media report had painted a bleak picture of the primates as threats to pilgrims. The trust officials have said that it is the monkeys who often become victims from the visitors who sometimes attack them whenever they come closer to them for food. From animal point of view, Pashupati area is the prime habitat of those monkeys whose population is dwindling and their condition of living and health is in grave danger due to human encroachment. A scientific study is a must to determine the actual level of harm the monkeys cause to humans and infectious diseases that they have been carrying as claimed by some.