Thursday, March 4, 2021

Zahid ready to testify on no-show for RM9 bil combat ships

The former defence minister however says he was no longer in charge when the payment was made.

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Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today said he is ready to testify at the bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which is investigating the non-delivery of six littoral combatant ships (LCS) worth RM9 billion.

But Zahid, who served as defence minister under the Najib Razak administration between April 2009 and May 2013, said he should not be blamed as he had already left the ministry.

The project to build the combat ships was awarded in 2014 to Boustead Naval Shipyard, a company owned by armed forces fund Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera.

The company was to deliver the first ship in April 2019, but none has been built although the government has paid the company RM6 billion.

“Boustead’s failure to deliver only surfaced in 2019, when I was no longer the defence minister,” Zahid said, adding that he had no control over decisions made by the ministry on the payments.

In August, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said action would be taken against the company for the delay in delivering the LCS.

This followed the Auditor-General’s Report which found that the ministry failed to impose a late fine of RM116.54 million on the company despite the delay.

Zahid however said he would cooperate fully with PAC.

“Whichever party caused the construction delay should explain to PAC,” he said.

“I fully support the revelation by PAC and hope its investigation will be transparent and made public.”

Yesterday, PAC chairman Wong Kah Woh announced that Zahid, as well as former Royal Malaysian Navy chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar and Boustead Naval Shipyard, would be called to testify at the hearing.

Wong said some RM6 billion had been paid so far although not one LCS was built.

“If according to the schedule, two LCS should have been built by now,” he said, adding that PAC’s findings will be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat in March next year.

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