January 22, 2021 4:28:46 am
The Ministry of Civil Aviation said Thursday that the 2019 privatisation of six airports — Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Lucknow, Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram — was conducted in a “competitive and transparent” manner, with 32 bids having been received from 10 different entities during the bidding process.
Responding to The Indian Express report titled “Finance Ministry and Niti Aayog had raised red flags before Adani’s clean sweep of six airports”, published on January 15, the Ministry said that the assertion made in the article was “factually incorrect”. On the objections raised by both Ministry of Finance and Niti Aayog about the bidding process, the Ministry said that an Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGOS) “took a conscious decision not to put any restrictions on the number of airports to be bid or to be awarded to a single entity” given that the six airports handled only 9.5% of the passenger traffic. On the issue of ignoring the recommendations of Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and Niti Aayog, the statement from the Ministry noted that both these agencies were represented in the EGOS, where the issues were deliberated. The concession agreement for Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram airports, the Ministry said, was signed on January 19, 2021 and not September 2020, when the Letter of Award for these three airports had been issued by the Airports Authority of India.
The Indian Express replies:
As stated in the news report, the objections raised by the DEA and Niti Aayog were recorded in the minutes of the meeting of the Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee (PPPAC) dated December 11, 2018 and it is these interventions were reproduced in the January 15 news report. The report duly acknowledged the decision taken by the EGOS pertaining to the specific point flagged by the DEA about restricting the number of airports to be awarded to the same bidder, and those raised by the Niti Aayog about stipulating prior experience as one of the bidding requirements. The news report also noted the PPPAC’s response on Niti Aayog’s objection that the EGOS had already decided on not having prior airport experience as a prerequisite for bidding.
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