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Cabinet issues ‘conflicting decision’ over Bhairahawa airport operation

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Jun 2, 2019-

The Cabinet has made a “conflicting decision” to appoint international firms for the operational readiness and airport transfer (ORAT) operation of the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa.

On Thursday, Gokul Prasad Baskota, Minister for Communication and Information Technology and Spokesperson of government, told the weekly press briefing that the Cabinet has given its “in principle” approval for the Tourism Ministry’s proposal to appoint the foreign firms through a government to government deal.

Officials at the ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said that the cabinet decision to appoint the foreign firms for ORAT operation of the airport is contradictory.

Because, on one hand, it has asked the tourism ministry to appoint the foreign firms through a government to government deal, while also asking officials to hold an open competition..

Minister Baskota said that the Tourism Ministry is entitled to sign an agreement for the ORAT operation of the airport with any countries under a government to government deal. “The decision completely contradicts. There was no need to table the proposal at the Cabinet if the concerned authorities had to appoint international firms through open completion,” said an official at the civil aviation body.

Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, joint secretary at the Tourism Ministry, said that his ministry had tabled the proposal seeking Cabinet’s approval to appoint the ORAT operators through a government to government deal after assessing the necessary criteria of the interested parties.

“The ministry’s intention is to negotiate and appoint the eligible operator,” he said.

“Appointing the operators through a government to government deal and open competition are two different issues.” Lamichhane, however, said that the ministry has not received the Cabinet’s written decision.

In January, the government had decided to appoint Germany’s Munich Airport to provide consultancy services for the ORAT operation of the airport.

Located in south central Nepal, the airport is the gateway to the international pilgrimage destination of Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha.

It has been expected to be completed this year. As only finishing the construction work will not assure operational readiness, ORAT will play a big role in helping the new facility open on time.

Sanjiv Gautam, former director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, had told the Post in January that the civil aviation board had approved the proposal to induct a foreign consultancy service for the ORAT operation of the airport, and that it had been sent to the ministry for approval.

Following which, the proposal to select Munich Airport had been tabled at the Cabinet for its in-principle approval. However, the Prime Minister’s Office had asked the tourism ministry to clarify the legalities of the contract it plans to award to the management consultant.

ORAT is the best way to ensure that every aspect of a new facility functions flawlessly right from day one. ORAT consultants work with airport stakeholders to formulate new processes, train staff, and test every single new system and procedure from passenger and baggage handling to airside operations.

The government is under heavy pressure to improve the efficiency of the sole international airport in Kathmandu that is managed by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Munich Airport is the second busiest airport in Germany in terms of passenger traffic after Frankfurt Airport, and the seventh busiest airport in Europe, handling 44.6 million passengers in 2017.

Published: 02-06-2019 08:03

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