KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 — Malaysia needs to form a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to investigate the RM9 billion procurement of six littoral combat ships (LCS) for the navy, veteran lawmaker Lim Kit Siang said today.
The Iskandar Puteri MP noted that there had been many questions surrounding the issue and an independent investigation is needed to find out if there are “hidden hands” involved that caused the government to pay over RM6 billion to the contractor, which has failed to complete and deliver any of the six ships commissioned.
Lim said he supported political foe Wan Saiful Wan Jan's call for an RCI into the contract even as he noted the latter’s party is represented by nine ministers in the 32-member Cabinet.
“Will anyone of them propose in the next Cabinet the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the RM9 billion LCS scandal and will the nine Bersatu ministers act as one bloc to support the set-up of such a RCI?” Lim asked in a statement.
The DAP veteran also asked if the ministers from other parties would back the call for an RCI if most of their peers were in favour of it.
Apart from Bersatu, Lim pointed out that the Cabinet has 12 Umno ministers, four from Sarawak-based Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu, three from PAS, and one each from MCA, MIC, and Parti Bangsa Malaysia.
Lim noted that the term “hidden hands” to refer to the LCS scandal was first used by Wan Saiful, who is Bersatu information chief and a member of a previous special committee formed to investigate the issue, Datuk Mohd Tap Salleh.
“Is there a ‘hidden hand’ behind the RM9 billion LCS scandal?
“This indeed calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry,” he added.
Wan Saiful proposed the set-up of an RCI into the LCS deal on his Facebook account yesterday to nip another financial scandal like 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in the bud.
The Bersatu man said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission should be given freedom to investigate the issue fully even as he suggested that “hidden hands” may be trying to avoid responsibility for the delay and increased expenditure for the supply of the naval assets.
Mohd Tap was a member of the Special Investigation Committee on Public Governance, Procurement and Finance (JKUSTUPKK) that was tasked in 2020 to scrutinise the LCS deal and report to Parliament's bipartisan watchdog Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
During the PAC proceedings in 2020, Mohd Tap had pointed out that both the change of the LCS design from Sigma to Gowind and the negotiation of the pricing were done within a few days which he said “is not possible. Unless there are hidden hands involved in this”.
The PAC recently presented its findings in Parliament but highlighted that the special committee’s reports it had asked for contained some parts that were redacted and were not fully declassified.
Today, Lim asked if Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has sought to get Cabinet’s approval to fully declassify the special committee’s report on the procurement deal as recommended by the PAC.
“If not, can Hishamuddin state whether he agrees with the declassification of the JKUSTUPKK report and when he proposes to implement it,” Lim said.
The PAC's report released on August 8 said an RM9.128 billion, 10-year contract from October 2013 to October 2023 was awarded through direct negotiation to contractor Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd for the supply of the six LCS.
The PAC report also said the Malaysian government had to date already paid RM6.083 billion to the contractor, but none of the six LCS vessels have been completed. Based on the original schedule, five of the six LCS vessels should have been completed and handed over by August 2022.
According to the PAC, the project had run into cost overruns of RM1.4005 billion as the government’s payments to the Boustead Naval Shipyard was not fully used for the LCS project, noting that the RM1.4 billion overrun included RM400 million that was spent to pay off an old debt for the New Generation Patrol Vehicle project.
The PAC report said equipment kept in storage for the LCS project is estimated to be worth RM1.7 billion, with an estimated 15 per cent of these already obsolete