Ministry under fire over Mumbai airport

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 11 2014, 18:01pm hrs
Mumbai AirportThe escrow account is meant for airport operators to deposit passenger service fee for payments to the CISF. Reuters
The civil aviation ministry on Monday came under severe criticism from a parliamentary panel for allowing Mumbai's airport operator for making highly irregular withdrawals from the escrow account meant for fees collected from passengers to provide security.

"The ministry, instead of coming down on the errant airport operator with a heavy hand, has given it a long rope by remaining content with (issuing) advisories which have not been enforced," the Committee on Public Undertakings (COPU) said in a report tabled in Parliament.

The COPU, after examining the findings of the CAG report, said the GVK-led Mumbai International Airport (MIAL) should be squarely blamed for the highly irregular withdrawals through deliberate misrepresentation of the law, rules and regulations and basic facts, from an escrow account which it was operating in fiduciary capacity. The escrow account is meant for airport operators to deposit passenger service fee for payments to the CISF to provide security at the airports.

The remaining amount, if any, is to be transferred to the Airports Authority of India under the Operation, Maintenance and Development Agreement the government had signed with the private operator.

The COPU found it intriguing that though an audit of the account was carried out in 2009, no significant observations were made by the auditors regarding the manner of utilisation of funds.

It was also "surprising" the matter was never discussed at the Board level meetings. "All this while the airport operator has used all sorts of excuses to continue with the unauthorised withdra-wals," the COPU said.