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MP SPEAKS | PAC report on LCS confirms earlier probe by select committee

MP SPEAKS | I welcome the release of the Dewan Rakyat’s Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) report on the RM9 billion littoral combat ship (LCS) saga. The project, in effect, was one of the largest defence procurements for new equipment undertaken in Malaysia’s history.

There has been justifiable outrage over the PAC report’s findings, including that the government has already spent at least RM6.083 billion on the directly negotiated contract, despite the fact that not even one of the five LCS that had been ordered has been finished and delivered by the company selected to implement it, the Boustead Naval Shipyards (BNS).

The PAC’s report mirrors - and vindicates - the issues regarding the LCS project that had earlier been raised by the Dewan Rakyat’s Special Select Committee On Defence And Home Affairs that I had chaired from December 2019 until December 2020.

I had in fact initiated an inquiry into the project given the long delays that had been plaguing it.

The Special Investigation Committee on Public Governance, Procurement and Finance highlighted to us the various problems and abuses that had plagued the project, which the PAC has now confirmed.

The current report has also outlined a number of other anomalies I had likewise previously raised, most notably that the views of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), as the LCS’ end user, were ignored by the Defence Ministry and BNS in the project’s implementation, including over the design of the vessels.

The RMN had agreed to use the Sigma design, but this was overruled by then defence minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the request of BNS without referring to RMN in 2011. Instead, the Gowind-class design was adopted despite the navy expressing disappointment at the decision.

Former auditor-general Ambrin Buang, who chaired the special committee, told me something that I will never forget, which is how the-then government approached the project: “As if you’re buying a toy, you know, we can wait, relax… So, unless an external force comes in and pushes the thing, they will take their own sweet time. There is a lack of urgency...nobody seems to want to take charge. No stewardship.”

Unfortunately, I was unable to publish my committee’s report due to the change of government following the Sheraton Move.

By way of comparison, Egypt had ordered four Gowind-class ships in 2013 and the first of these was commissioned in 2017. Our neighbour Indonesia ordered four Sigma-class ships in 2010 - the first was commissioned in 2017 and the second in 2018. Malaysia made its order in 2011 and has not received even one yet.

The PAC report also found that insufficient due diligence was done by the government of the time on BNS’ financial state and that there were critical weaknesses in its internal management of the same, among other things.

What is very grating is that the current government appears to be treating this scandal as if it was something completely unrelated to them, when it is a fact that several of its leaders were in the cabinet (and a few are currently still in it) during the last BN government under which the abuses occurred.

At the very least, they should be candid about what they did or did not do, and what they thought and did not think about the LCS saga as it unfolded after their watch.

It is true several individuals have now been arrested by the MACC and there may be more.

However, to date, no one yet has been charged for the scandal.

BN - and now this strange, hybrid government we have over us - own this failure.

'Don't gaslight rakyat'

I will have more to say about the LCS future. However, I would like to conclude for now by saying that the responsible parties should not gaslight the rakyat. Rather, they should take responsibility for the failures which the PAC has now exposed.

Those proven to have committed wrongdoing must be brought to justice.

However, above and beyond this, there must also be political responsibility and liability for this fiasco, right to the top of the government, considering that this sad and sorry saga has arguably negatively impacted Malaysia’s ability to defend itself.

The government has promised to investigate LCS transparently. But we see too many military procurements end up with improprieties and delays, and it has become a norm.

Too often junior personalities end up as scapegoats whereas those politically and professionally responsible are let off the hook.

In an era of intense superpower rivalry, this failure and negligence is a gross betrayal to our soldiers and rakyat.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD is Setiawangsa MP and PKR chief organising secretary.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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