Business

Did PIA Award a Rs700 Million IFE Contract to a Ghost IT Company?

PIA awards a Rs700 million contract to a ghost software development company to upgrade its Inflight Entertainment Systems (IFE) on 8 aircrafts to ‘state of the art’.

There was a recent news item released by PIA regarding the airline upgrading the Inflight Entertainment Systems (IFE) on 8 aircrafts to ‘state of the art’. As quoted by a poorly drafted press release, “PIA had been trying to upgrade its 777 fleet since long with off the shelf available solutions. However newer systems also require newer seats and the whole solution becomes so expensive that PIA would require nearly Billions to upgrade even one aircraft, an extremely difficult proposition for the cash starved company like PIA.”

The release continues, “The matter was brought into the notice of the Government of Pakistan which directed PIA to look towards indigenous cost effective sources to undergo this up-gradation. The idea seems more exciting because it will give boost to the local industries to develop capability in line with international aviation and safety standards, because nothing can be put on any commercial aviation aircraft unless it has certifications of FAA, EASA and PCAA standards.”

Who is Aviation Avionics and on what basis has the contract been awarded to them? Where is the oversight? More importantly, who made the decision to terminate the original contract and issue another one?

The announcement is routine and not newsworthy until you read that the PK700 million contract has been awarded to a ‘local company called Aviation Avionics to support indigenous software growth’. What makes the statement more suspect is there doesn’t seem to be a software company with that name. Aviation Avionics doesn’t appear in any web searches except websites who have published the said release.

Favad Qaisar from Communication Square Pvt Ltd comments, “The quality of development of [locally] doesn’t match international standards unless you have Project Managers and QA procedures that are followed.” An airline has to stick to stringent codes and safety standards. If the service provider doesn’t have the requisite technical experience, it could prove fatal to the safety of the entire airline.

The situation becomes a little more suspect. While the news release was sent to our team two days prior, the exact same announcement appears on the Parhlo and other websites dating back to June 2019. A similar release posted on Global Village Space gives the names of the two companies that were shortlisted by PIA for the InFlight Entertainment project: AAR International Corp (Singapore) and Avionic Solutions Private Limited (Pakistan). When you search for “Avionic Solutions Private Limited (Pakistan)”, you find that the company was registered in Islamabad in March 2019. For anyone who wants to understand how ‘fake news’ is published so as to legitimize a deal, a case like this might just be worth studying in more depth. Legitimate technology and lifestyle websites have published the news, normalizing a potential scandal into a routine story.

There is no open tender listed on the PIA website for this project. Being a government company, PIA must publish the tender and accept bids prior to awarding the contract.

Who is Aviation Avionics and on what basis has the contract been awarded to them? Where is the oversight? More importantly, who made the decision to terminate the original contract and issue another one?

A Little More Context

Pakistan International Airlines was the first international airline to introduce entertainment system showing a regularly scheduled film on board in the year 1962. Those who travel PIA can share more details about the failed IFE experience. According to the article in Global Village Space, PIA awarded an IFE upgrading contract to Panasonic in 2016 worth US$50 million for only five aircraft. PIA soon terminated that contract citing monetary challenges.

For anyone who wants to understand how ‘fake news’ is published so as to legitimize a deal, a case like this might just be worth studying in more depth. Legitimate technology and lifestyle websites have published the news normalizing a potential scandal into a story.

It isn’t the first time a government department has overlooked local IT companies, opting for pre-packaged solutions. A lot of the large technology companies have local partners, who can assist in price negotiation and deployment. Local software companies also have the resources to work with global partners and customize solutions to specific needs. Favad Qaisar from Communication Square Pvt Ltd comments, “The quality of development [locally] doesn’t match international standards unless you have Project Managers and QA procedures that are followed.” An airline has to stick to stringent codes and safety standards. If the service provider doesn’t have the requisite technical experience, it could prove fatal to the safety of the entire airline. Additionally, it could prove to be a more expensive proposition if the deployed solution fails and has to be re-introduced.

In addition to the hardware and software, content licensing is perhaps what will make a bulk of the cost factor. As the national airline for Pakistan, more efforts should be made to encourage procurement and onboarding of locally development content.

Considering the government is the largest consumer of goods, it is grossly negligent for a government entity to not invest locally.

Disclaimer: We have reached out to P@SHA to find out if Aviation Avionics is a company that is registered when them and perhaps our understanding of the subject matter is incorrect. We have also reached out to the PR company that sent us this release for more details.

Let’s hear what you have to say. Share the article and your opinion on the matter!

To Top
%d bloggers like this: