LAHORE -  PIA served high risk and unhygienic in-flight meals to its passengers and crew worth Rs32 million through a disqualified contractor, due to reasons best known to management.

Then General Manager, Food Services Division (FSD) Mujeeb-ur-Rehman not only hired M/S Gaggan catering in 2016 but also made payment of more than Rs10 million in violation of PPRA rules and PIA Schedule of Power.

The said contractor was declared disqualified in 2014 and 2015 twice during PIA inspection due to its poor food and arrangements.

A site evaluation report revealed that 31 observations were made regarding hygienic conditions of the Gaggan kitchen including the food stored which was soft or semi solid instead of hard solid, thus making it a very high risk meal. The torn meal foils /casseroles inside the top open freezers were having layer of ice on top of it, in case of change of temperature the melted ice will penetrate inside making the food very unhygienic.

PIA investigation report found that the case had connection with catering services at Lahore. Kitchen Cuisine was supplying catering service at Lahore station on temporary basis from 2014 when M/S Pearl Continental (PC) stopped supplying meals to PIAC.

Tender was called for catering service at Lahore & Bid for catering services at Lahore station was opened on 26.03.2015 and Kitchen Cuisine (KC), M/s Pearl Continental (PC), Aamir Rajput Catering, Falattis Hotel and M/s Gaggan Catering participated. Out of these four only M/S Kitchen Cuisine (KC) and M/S Pearl Continental (PC) were qualified.

Whereas Gaggan Catering, M Aamir Rajput Catering and M Falattis Hotel were disqualified. The lowest bid was of PC. As per the decision of PIA Board of Director (BOD) meeting held on 15.01.2016, wherein contract was approved in favor of PC. Upon issuance of letter of termination KC filed a case in the Lahore High Court and after 3 to 4 hearings, court announced the decision null and void.

As an emergency it was decided, to award contract to some other caterer so that the fresh bidding could be conducted and no one could take undue advantage of its position. According to Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, the then GM FSD, he searched the market for interim arrangements at Lahore but he could find only M/S Gaggan at Lahore through Manager FSD Lahore. GM food services and manager food services were confident that M/S Gaggan can provide required services. However, on reviewing available record, no such evaluation report was found in record to substantiate the claim. The only documented evaluation site inspection was carried out by the team on 17th June 2016 and signed by the committee on 20th June 2016, including Mr Mujeeb. The committee not only disqualified but recommended to immediately stop meal from Gaggan being high risk and vulnerable to passengers.

Moreover, the technical evaluation committee visited the Gaggan catering facility on 17th June 16, and gave recommendations. ‘Unfortunately in case of Gaggan services, the facility was not found as per basic aviation standards rather they were found much below the required values at all levels”. It was unanimously established that the food being supplied is of a very high risk quality and vulnerable for safety of passengers and crew. It is recommended that catering from M/S Gaggan service be immediately stopped”.

As per the record available, a lot of passengers’ complaints were received by PIA while M/s Gaggan was giving catering services. Hence, evaluation reports by committee in 2014, 2015 and 2016 which disqualified M/S Gaggan were found credible.

The committee concluded that, “PPRA rules 11, 42, 50 and PIAC schedule of Power Rules 1906 and 1989 were violated”.

Interestingly, so far no punishment has been given to the officers involved in hiring a disqualified contractor and making payments to the firm which supplied unhygienic food to the PIA.