ISLAMABAD: The country’s top auditor has taken issue with the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) practice of charging passengers for ‘security’, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has deemed the fees unjustified since providing security for airports is the domain of the Airport Security Force (ASF), which receives an annual budget directly from the federal government.
The CAA administration currently collects $100 from passengers travelling abroad and Rs100 from those travelling on domestic flights as security charges. The charges are collected from all travellers just the same regardless of what airline they choose to fly with.
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According to a report compiled by the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP), the CAA generated close to Rs15 billion through these security charges over the past two fiscal years, collecting Rs6.97 billion in 2016-17 and another Rs7.83 billion in 2017-18. The amount was collected even though the ASF received roughly Rs11 billion from the federal government over the same period to pay salaries and procure weapons and other supplies.
When the CAA leadership approved the move to collect the security charges in the authority’s 139th and 143rd board session, it justified the decision by noting that the money would be spent on developing infrastructure at all airports.
However, the AGP in his report rejected the CAA leadership’s justification by pointing out that the ASF, which is responsible for airport security, receives its budget directly from the federal government. The report, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, was submitted for the parliamentary record on Monday.
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According to sources, the AGP initially referred the matter to a department audit committee. But when that move failed to yield any results, the country’s top auditor ordered the aviation authority to crack down on officials involved in collecting the ‘illegal’ charges, they said. The CAA has also been asked to deposit all money collected from passengers under pretext of security in a consolidated fund.
Commenting on the AGP report, Aviation Division Senior Joint Secretary Abdul Sattar Khokar said the CAA has been collecting the aforementioned charges under a statutory regulatory order for security purposes. He insisted that the aviation authority was collecting the charges since the ASF, since it is subordinate to the Aviation Division, could not collect any taxes on its own.
Khokar also maintained that the Aviation Division has not yet received any objections from the AGP office.
He added that under the new aviation policy, taxes applicable on commercial airlines have been reduced while security charges are now being collected against the Pakistani rupee instead of dollars due to an increase in the dollar exchange rate.
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