The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) has barred the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) from entering into a negotiated deal with England’s aviation regulator to train Pakistani pilots, advising it to instead float an international tender for training the pilots in line with global standards.
The Pakistan CAA (PCAA) wants to hire the UK Civil Aviation Authority International for training Pakistani pilots after an inquiry report pointed out serious anomalies in its examination systems, which led to the grounding of dozens of pilots and cancellation of licences of many others.
“The PCAA is recommended to engage in open competitive tendering process for selection of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) compliant organisation for conduct of examinations of pilots, and signing any framework agreement if necessary,” advised PPRA to the air industry regulator.
It added that till such time the PCAA enters into a contract or framework agreement with the ICAO-compliant organisation subsequent to open competitive tendering process, it may require the candidates to pass the examination on their own from any of the ICAO-complaint organisations.
PPRA also suggested that the PCAA may consider recognition of those examination systems as accredited examination systems, subject to approval of the competent forum of the PCAA.
In April this year, the CAA had sought advice from PPRA regarding negotiated tendering with the single party - the UK Civil Aviation Authority-International (UK CAA) - by invoking certain PPRA rules that allow such negotiated tendering.
The CAA had sought relaxation from the competitive bidding process on the grounds that the contract was technical or artistic in nature and was connected with the protection of exclusive rights or intellectual property, and also due to extreme urgency of the matter.
PPRA did not agree to these grounds.
“The PCAA desires to sign a contract with the UK CAA for conduct of examination, as per the recurrent fee at the rate of £90 quoted by the UK CAA in addition to the one-time examination fee of £69,600.”
PPRA said that the contract nature was more of a “Framework Agreement” than a service provider agreement.
In June last year, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan jolted the world and said that more than 30% of civilian pilots in Pakistan had fake licences and were not qualified to fly.
Khan had said 262 pilots in the country “did not take the exam themselves” and had paid someone else to sit on their behalf.
Then in December last year, the Supreme Court was informed that the national flag carrier had cleared 110 pilots out of the 141 whose licences to fly had been suspended in the backdrop of the fake degree controversy.
The PCAA informed PPRA that there were serious anomalies in the examination system of pilots, pointed out in July last year by the high-level inquiry.
The CAA said that ICAO and European Commission had imposed Significant Safety Concerns (SCCs) regarding PCAA examination system, and the concerns would only be removed after the validation audit of Corrective Action Plan (CAP).
An official of PPRA said that the CAA provided very limited information and PPRA was of the view that negotiated tendering was only possible where “technical solution that is non-obvious for others, and hence not available anywhere”, otherwise there could be no reason to avoid the competitive process.
Secondly, the exclusive rights are granted for such patentable inventions having novel and unique technical solutions for industrial applications.
“For any examination system for the pilots, there are many ICAO compliant organisations in the world, which can be engaged through competitive tendering process,” said PPRA while denying the permission to enter into a negotiated deal with the UK aviation regulator.
It added that since a high-level inquiry has highlighted serious anomalies in the PCAA examination system, so, if someone considers it as an unforeseeable event, it would be considered as attributable to the PCAA. The PPRA management further underlined that PCAA had sufficient time after publishing of the inquiry report or the issuance of the advice of the ICAO, for engagement in competitive tendering process.
Moreover, the provisions of extreme urgencies (if meet all the requirements) can only be invoked for the short-term basis rather than engaging in the long-term framework agreements, for which there was separate provision in Rule 16-A titled as procurement of common use items, services and commodities through framework agreement.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2021.
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