Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Both LDF and UDF favoured foreign consultancies for airport projects

Thiruvananthapuram: Kitco, CIAL overlooked in hiring Louis Berger for Sabarimala airport project,Previous UDF govt had first hired AECOM for Kannur airport, The UDF govt later had to hire Kitco via backdoor to complete work on time
While the government comes under fire for hiring various consultants, with the Opposition on Tuesday questioning the appointment of US-based Louis Berger for the feasibility study of proposed Sabarimala airport at Cheruvally estate, the truth is both LDF and UDF governments have overlooked competent state agencies for several projects.The government appointed Louis Berger in 2017 overlooking firms like Kerala Industrial and Technology Consultancy Organisation (Kitco) and Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL), despite them having a track record in conducting such studies and preparing detailed project report (DPR).
If Kitco, which constructed a control tower for the military airport in Oman, prepared the DPR for CIAL, it was CIAL which held feasibility study and prepared the DPR for Kannur airport in the first stage. The government has now paid around `4.6 crore to Louis Berger for the preliminary study in Sabarimala, while the same can be executed for just `50 lakh if the work is entrusted with Kitco, said experts.Jacob K Philip, aviation expert and former Kitco staffer engaged in preparing DPR of aviation projects, said the state can award the project to Kitco without going for an open tender.
But the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation Ltd (KSIDC), the nodal agency for coordinating the airport project, has not only invited an open tender, but listed higher pre-qualification criteria in the tender document for participation. For instance, stipulating minimum average turnover of the agency from consultancy work in the last three financial years should not be less than `50 crore in the case of Sabarimala airport, has made the firm ineligible to take part in the competitive bidding.

“I don’t think there would be any major corruption in selecting the process of consultancy. Kitco can execute the work at a nominal rate of `50 lakh. But if we hire a foreign agency for the purpose, their expense will naturally be higher,” said Jacob, adding it is bureaucratic inefficiency that forced them to depend heavily on the highly-paid consultancies.
Kannur airport is another example. Though the work was won by the multinational consultancy giant AECOM during the tenure of the previous UDF government, the government in the end had to rope in Kitco through backdoor to complete the work on time.Kitco was also what helped CIAL build and upgrade the airport at such a low cost.
The previous UDF government had awarded the feasibility study of Panamaram airstrip project in Wayanad to London-based Knight Frank consultancy. When retired chief secretary Tom Jose was the head of KSIDC, the project’s feasibility study was awarded to Knight Frank, despite Kitco’s plea.
29/07/20 Dhinesh Kallungal/New Indian Express
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