Building warships ‘not like playing with Lego’, Chin Tong tells LTAT chief over defence of LCS scandal

·4-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 — Armed Forces Pension Fund (LTAT) chief executive Datuk Ahmad Nazim Abdul Rahman’s remarks on the littoral combat ship (LCS) scandal exposed his ignorance of shipbuilding and his own role, said former deputy defence minister Liew Chin Tong.

The DAP lawmaker called Nazim’s statement shocking and suggested that the latter resign his post to join politics if he wished to be “political like Datuk Seri Najib Razak.”

Liew disputed Nazim’s insistence that the completed hull of the LCS could be seen en route to Pangkor Island as well as the latter’s points on the bulk order purchases of equipment, and the repayment of debt.

“What is the point of having a large skeleton or hull without wiring, weapons and equipment? Unfortunately, the detailed LCS design that should have been completed in November 2016 remains approximately at 80 per cent now in 2022.

“Building warships is not like making Lego ships,” he said in a statement.

He added that ships the size of LCSs have wiring and piping systems that are at least 300km long, and required meticulous planning to complete.

While not outwardly visible, Lim said the two were just some of the examples that showed the construction of a combat vessel to be far more complicated than a “hull that can be seen from the sea near Pangkor Island”.

On Nazim’s insistence that the equipment for the LCS had to be bought in bulk for cost savings, Lim said this was debunked by former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang who told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in December 2020 that the LCS contract was signed without finalised designs.

“Why buy equipment before the design is finalised? This is not like playing Lego, where you can put in and remove parts as you please.

“Moreover, 15 per cent of equipment that was purchased in bulk is now outdated and obsolete,” he said.

Liew said the outrageous waste was a result of purchasing systems before deciding on a final design as it precluded any opportunity to modify or alter the purchase.

Liew then denounced Nazim as unfit to be the chief executive of the LTAT given the latter’s professed belief that it was acceptable for the main contractor of the LCS to use the project’s payments for a separate but similarly troubled New Generational Patrol Vessel (NGPV) project.

“How can he agree that the use of the LCS funds embezzled for the ‘bailout’ of the NGPV project is reasonable and acceptable?

“One day, the LTAT fund can also be embezzled for the ‘bailout’ of other projects. Misuse of funds is criminal and cannot be pushed aside,” he said.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Nazim sought to explain why none of the six LCS purchased by the government has been completed yet.

He said he has personally seen construction of the six ships at the Lumut Shipyard, adding that others can also see the progress of the ships if they take a boat towards Pangkor Island.

Nazim also added that the RM6 billion spent so far was for a bulk order of equipment to build the ships, explaining that this would be cheaper compared to buying equipment individually.

He also said some of the money meant for the ships was used to pay off debt incurred by a previous company which Boustead Holdings and Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS) had to cover after taking over the project.

Last Thursday, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Wong Kah Woh revealed that cost overruns of the LCS project totaled RM1.4 billion, with RM400 million used to pay old debts from an old patrol vessel project.

Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) likened the brewing LCS scandal to 1MDB and said the Malaysian government has now developed a reputation for misappropriating taxpayer monies.

The LCS project is the largest procurement in the history of Mindef with a total cost of RM9 billion.

The said contract began in 2013 with a ten-year time frame and six LCS ships were expected to be built and delivered to the country by the end of 2023.

On August 8, Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein told Dewan Negara that the first of the LCS’ purchased from Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS) should be ready no later than two years from now.