The National Patriots Association (Patriot) would like to see the issue of the non-delivery of six helicopters purchased by the Ministry of Defence in 2016 brought to a decisive closure and action taken against the culprits.
The issue happened under former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s watch. He has so far not spoken a word but instead had the audacity to ask how the ministry planned to spend the RM15.6bn from the 2020 Budget.
The ministry had lodged a report to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in June this year for the purchase of the McDonnell Douglas MD530 lightweight combat helicopters, and various news media have reported on it.
The six helicopters, meant for Army use, cost more than RM300m, and to date RM113m has been paid. The contract, signed in November 2016 following a demonstration during 2015 Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition, was to have the helicopters delivered in two batches – in July 2017 and December 2018.
The purchase was reportedly through an appointed agency that was close to a very senior official of the ministry. The appointed agent, which had no previous experience in dealing with military assets, was allowed to conduct direct negotiations with the supplier.
The process of procuring the military assets did not go through due diligence; normally, for vital military assets, market research and value management checks should be done. The assets must meet the technical, tactical and operational capabilities expected by the end user.
The original price quoted was reportedly $60m (RM248m), but after three months the price was inflated to $70m.
Patriot finds the speedy conclusion of the contract for such an important defence procurement baffling, ie in just 18 months with full delivery expected in less than two years. It would appear that this was an off-the-shelf procurement where the six helicopters were all lined up to be sold. This procurement has been flawed from the outset.
Some questions that need to be answered by the previous defence minister are:
- What actually happened to these undelivered helicopters, where the deal was made during the previous administration?
- Was there truly a need for the Malaysian Army to procure the helicopters in view of the logistical support required to maintain it?
- Why was there a seemingly hurried arrangement to conclude the contract? Why was there the need to appoint an agent when procurement could have been done by the government itself?
- The agent was reported to have failed in his responsibility to see the contract through. Had a commission been paid to the agent?
Patriot believes there are serious irregularities in the procurement of these specialised helicopters. Since the contract was sealed by the previous government, the previous defence minister and all officials associated with the procurement must assume responsibility for the dereliction of duty.
Action must be taken against wrong-doers no matter how high their positions are, including those who have retired from the civil service and from the military.
Retired brigadier-general Mohamed Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot).