Audit findings slam constant setbacks in expansion initiative; new int’l terminal still not fully operational

A government audit report released recently shows that the many delays that marred the Rs. 2,000-crore Chennai airport expansion project, have caused massive losses to taxpayers.

“The report has slammed the various delays in the project and the losses we have incurred owing to it. It shows that there was a loss of interest of nearly Rs. 48 crore due to the delay in the commissioning of the new international terminal alone. Plus, there was a loss of revenue of over Rs. 37 crore due to the delay in the constructions of both the new terminals,” said an official of the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

The original cost of the expansion project was Rs. 1,808 crore, but it ballooned to Rs. 2,000 crore over the course of two years.

“There has been loss of interest of about Rs. 190 crore over the secondary runway. And this, the report says, is because some advice from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation was not taken into consideration. Similarly, since some instructions were not followed in the new fire station project, there has been a loss of about Rs. 3 crore there. The report also shows that the new domestic terminal was capitalised several months ahead of its actual commissioning, which is wrong,” the official said.

The Chennai airport expansion project began in October 2008, and the then civil aviation minister Praful Patel announced that it would be complete by January 2011. But the project was delayed time and again over a host of issues, and it was only in January 2013 — two years after the deadline — that the new domestic and international terminals were inaugurated.

It took another three months for the new domestic terminal and seven months for the new international to be thrown open for use. Even now, departures operations have not been completely shifted to the new international terminal and arrivals may begin only by December.

In the few months since their operations, the new terminals have grappled with problems ranging from cracked glass panels and false ceilings collapsing multiple times to poorly-maintained restrooms.

Several other projects, including the extension of the secondary runway, construction of additional parking stands and a new fire station are still pending.

When asked for his views on the report, AAI chairman, V.P. Agrawal said, “I’m yet to see the report. Only after looking at the comments and reviews in it will I decide what has to be done.”

D. Sudhakar Reddy of the Air Passengers Association of India said that the aviation ministry should take appropriate action over the losses.

“It is deeply disappointing to see the bad shape the airport is in now. What is more shocking is that no action has been taken as yet. After spending over Rs. 2,000 crore, we have been left with a shoddy result,” he said.

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