The RAA also uncovered tenders being given to ineligible companies, fake bills, sub-standard works, conflict of interest, missing documents, unjustified time extensions, poor planning and etc.
The RAA also found a mismatch in the runway designs required for the aircrafts operating there and also violation of several environmental rules.
According to sources the RAA, as a result of the report, has refused to give Audit Clearance to almost all the 250 staff members of the Department of Civil Aviation.
The Draft RAA report covers a period of three years from January 2010 to 30th June 2012 when the Domestic Airports were constructed by the Department of Civil Aviation under Ministry of Information and Communication. The tenders and overall monitoring was done by the MoIC.
Of the allocated Nu 435 mn for the three airports the RAA covered works worth Nu 427 mn.
The largest illegal overpayments and wasteful expenditure has been found in the Gelephu Domestic Airport. The illegal overpayment here is around Nu 140 mn with avoidable wasteful expenditure of Nu 67 mn.
The RAA found four instances of overpayments made to the contractor Tashi Kunzom Construction.
In the biggest of them Nu 78.27 mn was overpaid due to inflation of the quantities of the work done. The work was for providing and laying out ‘Dense Bituminous Macadam’ (DBM) and ‘Asphalt Concrete’ (AC) on the airport surface.
The report says that the actual quantity of work for the airport was 45,000 m2 for DBM and 15000 m2 for AC.
It says that in the estimates and the Bill of Quantities or BOQ (list of construction items and their costs) the work quantity was inflated to 72,000 m2 for DBM and 24,000 m2 for AC.
The report says that in the final bill put up by the Construction Company these figures were further inflated with double counting of the quantity of works resulting in overpayment of Nu 78.277 mn.
The report says that the Ministry and the DCA should thoroughly investigate the process leading to such huge payments, fix responsibility on the officials responsible for the preparation of estimates, take legal action and recover the Nu 78.27 mn in excess payments.
The report also says, “Considering the magnitude and seriousness of this observation as well as many other audit findings of serious nature, the Ministry and DCA should also thoroughly investigate the final bills of all the contractors to rule out any possibility of irregular and inflated claims.”
The RAA also found excess payment of Nu 24.94 mn for earthwork excavation and transportation of soil and rocks in the construction of the airport.
The excess payment was found in a resurvey done by a joint team of two officers from Royal Audit Authority, one from Ministry of Works and Human Settlement and one from the National Land Commission.
The Report said, “As the entire amount pertaining to the earthwork excavation had already been paid to the contractor through first running bill, the ministry should immediately take steps to recover excess payment of Nu 24.94 mn and deposit into ARA.”
The RAA also found Nu 23.67 mn in unjustified payment on transportation of spoil material. Though soil transported only beyond 500 meters and 1,000 meters was to be paid for, the contractor was paid for all soil refilling resulting in the excess payment.
The Report says, “The Ministry should thoroughly investigate the work methodology adopted by the site engineer as all the excavated materials were accepted as transported and paid for despite there were refilling works within the vicinity.”
The RAA also found Nu 12 mn in excess payment for blacktopping of the runway pavement using DBM and AC. A resurvey by a joint team of RAA, Engineers from Bhutan Standards Bureau and DCA found that the average thickness of the pavement was only 137.24 mm against the required thickness of 150mm.
The report said, “It indicated not only execution of substandard works by the contractor but also taking over of works not as per technical specification by the Department in particular the site engineer.”
A Nu 64.54 mn loss
The RAA report points out that failure of the Ministerial Level Tender Committee and in particular the Evaluation Committee which failed to evaluate the tenders with due diligence resulting in a loss of Nu 64.54 mn.
This was after the RAA found that the BOQ rate of the contractor Tashi Kunzom Construction was much higher than the BSR 2009 rates which guides the construction industry.
The report also said that the inclusion of wrong specifications in the BOQ resulted in quoting of wrong rates by bidders which impacted the cost of the project.
The report says, “The Department and Ministry should investigate the failure on part of the Tender Committee.”
A flood prone Airport
As per Gelephu Airport master plan, the consultants, following a thorough study on flooding risks of the airports recommended that the runway elevation should be at least 322 meters at its lowest point. However, as evidenced from the field visit report of joint team of MoWHS, Gelephu Thromde and DCA conducted from 13th October 2012 to 19th October 2012, the lowest finished level of centerline was only 266.524 meters above sea level. The RAA report says that this could be one of the plausible reasons as why the Gelephu airport was threatened with flooding during the construction phase in last monsoon.
A Nu 34.27 mn fence that got washed away
The RAA found that despite a Nu 34.27 mn fencing the Gelephu Airport still remains unsafe as the fencing has been damaged and washed by the river and season stream. The fencing was also not constructed along the national highway at all due to insufficient budget.
Missing Apron and Taxi way
The RAA found that Gelephu Airport has a missing Apron and Taxiway due to improper planning of the project.
An Apron is to accommodate aircraft for purpose of loading or unloading passengers, mail or cargo, fuelling, parking or maintenance. Taxi way is a path on land aerodrome established for the taxing of aircraft intended to provide link between one part of the aerodrome and another.
The Master plan though had originally provided for an Apron and Taxi way. The RAA report said that such infrastructures are necessary for the operationalization of the airport.
Ignoring the consultant’s advice and paying for it
RAA in its survey found that around 500 meters of the original site of the airport had been excavated before it was relocated on the grounds that excavation would cost Nu 1 bn.
The RAA, however, pointed out that the consultants who had been paid Nu 5.6 mn had already pointed this out and not following their advice made the expenditure worthless.
The relocation of the airport had also increased the distance between the building runway and the airport terminal from 246 meters to 374 meters.
Conflict of Interest
The RAA has said that conflict of interest cannot be ruled out when the contractor was asked to do the Topographical survey which should have done by the Department and later execute works based on it.
The topographical survey is a fundamental exercise for not only facilitating preparation of designs, drawings, estimates, BOQs but also forecasting realistic amount of earthwork excavation.
“There was no monitoring and overseeing mechanism put in place to validate the correctness of the topographic survey report,” says the Report.
The report said that there was possible existence of manipulation in the specification of item of work in the Topographic survey.
“Further, non quantification of earthworks even after the conduct of topographic survey has lead to a huge deviation in the quantity of earthwork excavation between the estimated quantity of 28,635.00 m3 and actual executed and paid quantity of 581,885.040m3 representing +1932% deviations from the estimates,” says the Report.
The RAA said that inclusion of topographic survey as an item work to be executed by the contractor was inappropriate and questionable.
The contractor charged around Nu 5.1 mn for the survey.
No documents rejection of tenders
The DCA despite repeated requests failed to provide bid evaluation results to the RAA. The information provided by DCA could not be verified as the re-tendered documents of the three contractors were not made available on record except the Standard Bidding Document (SBD) of M/s Tashi Kunzom Construction. The decisions of either the MLTC or DCA on the rejection of the initial tenders and retendering related documents were not made available for review.
“In the absence of which the process adopted for retendering, evaluations, rejections of bid and negotiation and award thereon could not be validated in terms of transparency, and fairness in the award of the contract to the 2nd lowest evaluated bidder M/s Tashi Kunzom Construction,” said the report.
The RAA noted that the estimates for the contract package especially for the earthwork excavation and construction of runway were not prepared as per the required construction norms. The DCA had not conducted any preliminary studies such as hydrological, geotechnical and geodetic data as these are the basic and critical information for execution of such vital construction work.
The technical sanction as required was not made available and in the absence thereof the technical soundness of the project with appropriate infrastructure could not be confirmed. The RAA said that the Department and the Ministry should explain on how the project was implemented without ensuring the technical feasibility and soundness of the project.
Time and Equipment
The RAA report also criticizes the ministerial tender committee for giving time extensions of three months that adversely impacted the government in the timely operationalization of the airport.
The RAA also said that the committed equipment and vehicles on the list of machineries provided by the contractor were not deployed. Though this was a fundamental breach of contract no action was taken.
RAA findings on Domestic Airports
Nu 435 mn was total cost of 3 domestic airports
Nu 152.876 mn lost in Illegal Overpayments
Nu 83 mn lost in wasteful expenditure
Ineligible bidders awarded tenders
Fake Bills and missing documents
Airports not meeting technical specifications