Will the public take it lying down, now that the Defence Minister, DS Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, has conveniently shifted all blame to the suppliers?
While his pretentious response about not knowing whether the allegation of the Johor Sultan was indeed true was deplorable enough, his admission of the fact that the supplier would be taken to court for misleading them in term of bloated prices is even more shocking. Was he asleep on the job?
Is he now admitting the fact that he had totally relied on this one supplier for all information regarding the Rapid Intervention Vehicle (RIV), including its price tag?
Was it again a case of procurement not done through an open tender i.e. it escaped comparison of prices and specifications?
Is he also admitting the fact that the ‘supposedly sophisticated and elaborate’ procurement process (given during our meeting with him in his ministry) has failed to detect this vast difference in the price, assuming that the Johor Sultan was correct at making an ‘apple to apple’ comparison?
On the contrary, the public could still recall that on September 8, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail, who presented a unit of RIV to the Special Forces Regiment, expressed his disappointment that military equipment was lacking in quality yet purchased at exorbitant prices. His claim that his RIF was superior and yet he bought it for RM540,000 cheaper than the price paid by the ministry. So it’s not even an ‘apple to apple’ comparison.
Unusually high prices paid for military equipment had led Pakatan Rakyat to call for the setting up of a Parliament Oversight Committee to review and monitor defence expenditure on numerous occasions in recent past.
Pakatan Rakyat represented by three members of parliament from DAP, PAS and PKR, in January this year met with the Defence minister with a suggestion that a parliamentary oversight committee be formed to provide check and balance to the country’s defence expenditure. The meeting was also attended by its chief secretary Ismail Ahmad, army generals as well as Barisan Nasional MPs.
In recent months, Pakatan Rakyat has also questioned the inflated costs of several new arms deals proposed by current Defence Minister Zahid Hamidi, which includes the purchase of 30 Eurofighter, Typhoon jets and 6 naval patrol boats.
Earlier, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR had expressed concern at another RM2 billion directly-negotiated government procurement contract Network Centric Operations with Sapura Secured Technologies Sdn Bhd, on the basis that it can potentially waste millions of ringgit more of taxpayers’ money.
The controversial deals linked to Najib include the 2 Scorpene and one Agosta submarines purchase in 2002 worth RM7billion, 18 Sukhoi jetfighters in 2003 worth RM3.5billion, the 12 Eurocopters EC275 helicopters in 2008 worth RM2.3billion, the ongoing RM52billion MRT system for the Klang Valley, 38 units of EMU costing half a billion RM extra and a multi-billion ringgit slush fund within the 1MDB project are some obvious ones. The list of much-to-be-desired mega procurements in mega projects is indeed a very long one.
The government has yet to date, provide for specific details of equipment and services which makes the difference between the acquisition cost of RM7.55 billion relative to the base system of only RM1.7 billion in the case of the controversial procurement of the littoral combat ships (LCS – Frigate Class).
Even WikiLeaks has reported a diplomatic cable between the US Embassy in Malaysia and the United States that alleges corruption in Malaysia’s defence procurement in which Umno politicians, agents, civil servants and military officials routinely receive 30 per cent “commission” on deals. That’s a very serious allegation worthy of the nation’s attention.
Although national security is a serious issue, Malaysians are beginning to insist that the defense ministry be transparent and accountable on procurements that run into billions of ringgit. Pakatan is not going to be listening to ‘sweet talk’ of ministers anymore if it doesn’t end in serious action in term of improving good governance ― transparency and accountability.
Najib’s commitment of effecting both ‘Political and Economic Reforms’, presumably in turn of governance as well, is fast turning into a farce, a mockery of sort. His commitment to an ‘open-tender’ process, without its attending transparency, with respect to the award of mega-project namely the LRT and MRT (and now the IPPs by the Energy Commission), has left many in the lurk of what had truly transpired and how transparency has been severely compromised and subverted. The mention of George Kent has now become a ‘bad word’, well, almost.
On the verge of a critical General Election, the irresponsible action of a minister like Zahid Hamidi is fast turning to be construed as an act of subversion to his boss. His ignorance very baffling and appalling at best and his pretension is very hypocritical indeed. He needs no reminder that the bulk stops at him.
He must be fired before his boss gets to be ousted by the electorates!