The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has indicted the air force for poor quality of runway re-surfacing work at the Leh air force station, which is the highest airfield in the world, in its latest report. The report was tabled in the Parliament on July 18.
The work on runway resurfacing was sanctioned by the ministry of defence in March 2009 at an estimated cost of Rs. 29.39 crore to be completed in three working seasons (in Leh, the working season is of just six months).
The subsequent change in design was sought and the contract was revised to Rs. 33.59 crore and then to Rs. 34.45 crore after getting approval. However, the work was completed in October 2011 at a cost of Rs. 36.12 crore.
“After completion of work, it was noticed by the users (air force station of Leh) that the runway suffered continuous degradation due to surface wear and tear. Temporary repairs were carried out in March 2012 by the contractor at no extra cost,” reveals CAG.
“On completion of repair work, the runway surface was checked by the users in April 2012 after landings of a few fixed wing aircraft. It was found that the runway had suffered abrasions to surface due to tyre friction and the runway was adjudged unfit for fighter operations by the users,” observes CAG. The affected portion of runway was repaired by the contractor in September 2012 within the defect liability period.
“We observed in February 2013 that degradations were noticed again in December 2012. Joint inspection at station level carried out in January 2013 in association with General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) revealed that to enhance the life of runway, additional cost of Rs. 3.22 crore would be required for temporary restoration and 10.21 crore for permanent measures,” says CAG report.
When objection was raised, chief engineer, stated in March 2013 that the surface was damaged “due to unconventional method under which salt and other chemicals were used by the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) for removal of accumulated snow from the surface”.
The final decision on whether temporary restoration or permanent measure to repair the runway to be adopted was pending in March 2013 with air force station authorities, says CAG report.
It concluded, “The reply given by the chief engineer is not acceptable since the resurfaced runway at the station had shown degradation of surface immediately after completion of the resurfacing work. The subsequent change in the design involving an additional expenditure of Rs. 5.06 crore also did not prove effective and the degraded runway was yet (March 2013) to be made good.”