KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 7 — Former deputy defence minister Liew Chin Tong today demanded Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to answer the issues leveled against him over the controversial Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) project totaling RM1.4 billion, alleging that the latter had approved the project when he was the defence minister in 2011.
Ahmad Zahid had previously told Umno Online That it is not right to link him to the project's failure, as he was not the defence minister at the time the project was awarded.
"Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, don't try to run away from responsibilities. The LCS project was approved by Zahid Hamidi as the defence minister in 2011.
"Zahid was also the one who decided to change the LCS system from the Sigma system to the Gowind system, before negotiating and seeking advice from the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN). Zahid is responsible for the misappropriation of funds and the failure of the LCS project that happened. He must answer to the people now. Do not run," Liew said in a statement today.
Liew's statement comes after Ahmad Zahid's denial yesterday, of having any involvement in the alleged financial improprieties regarding the LCS project, saying that he was not defence minister at the time the project was awarded.
"I held the position of Minister of Defence from April 2009 to May 2013. So any party that caused the construction delay should be responsible for providing an explanation to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
"(This is to) fully support the disclosure of this delay," he reportedly said when contacted by MalaysiaGazette. Umno's party organ, Umno Online, republished the report.
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.
The LCS project is the largest procurement in the history of the Ministry of Defence (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.
Wong who is also Ipoh Timor MP added that 15 per cent of the equipment for the LCS project worth RM1.7 billion has also become obsolete after sitting in store for too long.
"The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was given to Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS) through direct negotiation and we have paid them up to RM6.083 billion so far.
"However, not even one of the LCS ships has been delivered. According to our timeline, five LCS ships should have been completed and handed over to us by August 2022,” said Wong.
Umno Online quoted Ahmad Zahid saying that the LCS, built by BNS, is a subsidiary of Boustead Holdings Bhd, whose largest shareholder is Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT).
"Referring to the audit report from PAC, the contract to Boustead is in accordance with the direct negotiation procurement application guidelines dated April 17, 2002.
"Clearly it has nothing to do with me, in fact LTAT itself is the largest shareholder in the LCS construction company," he reportedly said, adding that he is ready to provide evidence or explanation to the PAC to complete the proceedings, soonest.
Umno Online also reported Wong saying that Ahmad Zahid would be called by the PAC early next month, to complete the proceedings regarding the failure to supply the six LCS worth RM9 billion.
The report said that the former Commander of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar and the main contractor of the LCS ship project BNS, would also be summoned.