The Government has awarded the contract of overhauling of Two Sri Lanka Air Force Special Transport Squadron (VVIP) helicopters to a Lithuanian company in a controversial deal with the approval of the Cabinet appointed procurement committee, informed sources revealed.

Two Sri Lanka Air Force Special Transport Squadron (VVIP) helicopters are to be handed over to an unqualified helicopter repairing company in Lithuania for repair, international reports divulged.

The two helicopters SMH-4419 MI 171E and SMH-4429 MI 171 E have been awarded the lowest bid under tender number 18 / fr / m.17 / 10/1 to a Lithuanian company.

The Russian-made choppers were purchased by the Sri Lankan government under a loan scheme in 2013, where 14 helicopters had been procured. Two of them, the MI 171E SMH-4418 and SMH-4419 were used by the Special VIP Transport Squadron.

Reports revealed that repairs to such choppers require a quality assurance certificate (mil bishin bureau) but this particular company does not have such a certificate, reports revealed.

Earlier, it was reported that although the relevant quality assurance was required for the repair of such helicopters, but later removed that qualification and the SMH-4418 MI 171 E helicopter was handed over to the company for repair.

Generally, Russia or Ukraine bid for repairs of such helicopters at a cost of US$ 2.5-2.8 million and questions have been raised over the handing over of two VVIP aircraft owned by Sri Lanka to a Lithuanian company for overhauling purposes.

The Sunday Morning reported that the Lithuanian company had submitted the lowest bid under tender no. 18/ fr/m.17/10/1 to overhaul the two aircraft, SHM-4419 MI-174E and SMH-4429 MI-171E.

According to Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) sources, the decision had been taken by a Cabinet-Appointed Procurement Committee (CAPC) and the process had been carried out for nearly two years before it was finalised recently.

The two aircrafts have already been handed over for the overhauling processes and the Lithuanian company had fulfilled all required quality assurances needed for overhauling processes, SLAF said.