ISLAMABAD: Despite having purchased expensive automated data processing and billing systems, the Civil Aviation Authority seems to be unable to account for 22,897 flights over the past six years, an oversight that has likely resulted in the loss of nearly Rs9.6 billion to the national aviation regulator and airport operator, according to federal auditors.
Officials at the CAA are now under investigation by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for having purchased two separate systems that have virtually the same functionality and yet were unable to account for tens of thousands of flights that took off and landed from a handful of airports in Pakistan.
The CAA purchased an air traffic control system for just under $3.5 million which offered the ability to automate several processes, including standarising databases, acquiring flights plans and in-flight statistics files from Flight Data Processing Systems, defining parameters to calculate route and landing changes, releasing bills and updating flights plans, updating statistics reports, and adjusting formats of reports.
This is not the first time the CAA purchased software upgrades. In 2008, the CAA purchased a separate billing system (Airport 20/20) under its enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation project. The system cost the regulator Rs16.5 million. The system also had many of the same capabilities as the new system.
Unfortunately, say federal auditors, the two systems were not integrated, which is what they say is likely to have resulted in the mishandled data.
During the CAA’s audit, federal auditors requested data from both the air traffic control system and the billing system and found significant differences between the two. Auditors believe that they have found at least 22,897 flights that were not billed for the use of air traffic infrastructure, a negligence that is likely to have cost the regulatory body close to Rs9.6 million during the 43 months from September 2009 through March 2013.
What triggered the investigation, however, was not the discrepancy in the data, but the apparent lack of cooperation on the part of CAA officials. When the results of the audit were sent over to the CAA Directorate, with a request for further clarification and data, the CAA management ignored those requests, say auditors.
When auditors contacted the CAA Operations Directorate for a reconciliation of the data, they were told that the air traffic control system’s data is not reliable and therefore cannot be reconciled.
When the matter was brought up before the government’s internal Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC) on January 2, 2014, the CAA confessed that the reason its data was irreconcilable was due to the regulator’s failure to integrate its two technology systems. The matter has now been under investigation by the NAB and the FIA over the last several months.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2015.
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