How much does a passenger pay towards the development of Delhi’s airport? How is that amount spent and how much of it is shared with the government?
The Capital’s flyers may never know the answers after the city airport operators blocked the national auditor’s efforts to examine its accounts, saying the process wasn’t legally permissible.
In May, the government told GMR group-owned Delhi International Airport Authority (DIAL) -- that runs the Indira Gandhi International airport – that the Comptroller and Auditor General would be auditing its books on behalf of the Airports Authority of India to investigate any possible suppression of revenues.
But DIAL denied access to CAG teams and said the auditor has no “right and authority” to inspect or audit the operator’s revenues or that of its joint ventures.
Without divulging details, a DIAL spokesperson told HT, “Projects developed under a private-public-partnership programme do not come under the purview of the CAG.”
About a third of the Rs 12,500 crores invested to modernise the airport is raised by charging additional development fees—an amount factored into the air ticket price.
In 2006, the AAI —a government body that develops, operates and maintains airports—handed over key functions like operating, maintaining, upgrading and financing of the Delhi airport to DIAL.
It now wants the CAG to act as its representative and audit DIAL’s books to find out if the private operator honoured the transfer agreement -- called the Operation, Management and Development Agreement (OMDA) – that stipulated DIAL would share 46% revenue with the government.
“The AAI and its representatives shall be permitted to inspect the books, records and other material kept by or on behalf of the joint venture company (DIAL in this case) to check or audit any information (including the calculation of revenue) supplied to AAI,” the OMDA states.
But DIAL has refused to open its books, saying the AAI was using the CAG to subject the private firm to multiple audits as the government body had already appointed a private firm for a special audit.
A top source familiar with the development told HT that AAI can neither appoint another representative to carry out an audit nor can the CAG seek its own nomination as the representative of the government body.
Experts said global practices favoured DIAL as there are not many instances of federal accounting agencies outside the airport regulator’s jurisdiction scrutinising its books.
“Globally, the auditing practice in some of the best international airports like Heathrow (London), JFK Airport (New York), or Changi (Singapore) is the Light Touch approach where the government keeps a distance,” said Amber Dubey, head of aerospace and defence at accounting and auditing firm KPMG.
But in a landmark ruling last year, the Supreme Court said the CAG’s examination of service providers’ accounts in a revenue-sharing contract was “extremely important” to ascertain if there was an unlawful gain to the service provider and an unlawful loss to the Union of India.