Eurocopter scandal: No inspection done on choppers
|Syed Jaymal Zahiid | October 30, 2008|
Defence Deputy Minister Abu Seman Yusop received a beating from Pakatan Rakyat MPs today when he openly admitted that the multi-billion ringgit military helicopters did not undergo any physical inspection.
Abu Seman, in his Budget 2009 winding-up speech, said the ministry’s technical committee had decided to buy 12 units of the Eurocopter Cougar EC 725 helicopters based on documents alone.
He also took pains to explain that the purchase of the helicopters had cost the government RM1.6 billion, instead of the RM1.1 billion figure given by the ministry’s secretary-general Abu Bakar Abdullah in a press statement last week.
His revelation sparked an uproar in the House and prompted several Pakatan Rakyat MPs, led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, to grill him.
“How is it that a government procurement as big as this did not undergo any physical inspection? I have eight years of experience as finance minister and we have never make procurements without first inspecting (the items),” thundered Anwar.
M Manogaran (DAP-Teluk Intan) took a swipe at the deputy minister, saying that “even when you purchase something as small as a Perodua Kancil, you would want to inspect it first, what more when it is helicopters worth RM1.6 billion.”
Anwar said various aspects have to be taken into consideration like the safety of the pilots should there be any defects in the helicopters and it was absurd of the government not to make such deliberations when procuring the helicopters.
He demanded answers as to why conflicting figures have been cited on the cost of the helicopters.
Abu Seman then replied that it was a mistake on his part as he had overlooked the fact that the services charge and ‘offset package’ like supplementary military hardware had added RM500 million to the original RM1.1 billion to make it RM1.6 billion.
Set up Royal Commission
At a press conference later, Anwar said he could not accept the reasons given by Abu Seman although he believes that the deputy minister was only “reading the text provided to him by his superior” and was not involved in the matter.
“This is a shocking revelation by the deputy minister. A procurement this big without a physical inspection being done is swindling the people’s money par excellence.
“How can you allocate RM1.6 billion for something that you have never even seen or (when you don’t) know if it works or not.”
He said he could “vouch on behalf of the Malaysian army that they would definitely want to inspect the helicopters before purchasing it.”
Asked what he thought of all this, Anwar reiterated his demand for the government to set up a royal commission to probe the matter.
Earlier today, a decision on Anwar’s emergency motion to set up a royal commission to probe not just into the Eurocopter scandal but two other ‘mega-projects’ was deferred to Monday by the speaker.
A RM11.31 billion high-speed broadband project and the RM4.26 billion purchase of the Bank Internasional Indonesia by Maybank were the other projects Anwar had wanted to government to probe.