The investigation into the RM2.3 billion Eurocopter deal must go on even if the controversial deal is called off, opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said.
His call came in the wake of a news report over the weekend, quoting sources as saying that the deal to purchase 12 Cougar EC725 helicopters from a European firm has been called off due to the current economic situation.
The public accounts committee (PAC), a powerful parliamentary committee tasked to ensure that public funds are well spent, is scheduled to hold a two-day inquiry from tomorrow to look into the matter.
“Even if the helicopter deal is cancelled, PAC is duty-bound to investigate the highly dubious and controversial procurement process, as this runs counter to all principles of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance,” Lim said in a statement today.
The opposition stalwart, who is also DAP’s Ipoh Timor MP, said the PAC should identify whether any irregularity or oversight exists in the deal, and to ensure that the integrity of the Defence Ministry and the Royal Malaysian Air Force is intact.
“Parliament and the nation are entitled to a searching and no-holds-barred PAC inquiry to produce a report to be tabled by the end of next month which can answer many controversial questions,” Lim noted.
This includes why the price offered by Eurocopter has ballooned from its RM1.1 billion bid price to RM2.3 billion, as well as why is the government paying over twice the price for the aircraft
compared to aircraft from other countries.
The Eurocopter controversy was first highlighted in a letter dated Oct 7 addressed to Najib Abdul Razak, who is deputy prime minister and finance minister.
In the five-page letter, Mentari Services Sdn Bhd chairperson Kapt (rtd) Zahar Hashim suggested that the tender process, initiated during Najib’s tenure as defence minister, could have been a “gimmick” since the ministry appeared to favour one company.
Zahar also accused Najib (left) of providing Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who took over the defence portfolio on Sept 17, with an “inaccurate” report pertaining to the contract.
The government had decided to purchase the new aircraft to replace the ageing Nuri aircraft following a series of crashes in recent years.
The opposition has lodged a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Agency calling for a probe on Najib’s alleged involvement in the deal.
Letter of Award not issued
On Sunday, Internet news portal Malaysian Insider quoted sources as saying that the deal will be called off after the government reviewed its expenditure “in light of failing revenues from crude oil and palm oil and slowing economic growth for the next few years”.
According to the report, Eurocopter won the deal as it also proposed to invest RM250 million to upgrade Malaysia’s maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) capacity in its Subang facility as part of its tender.
Eurocopter has already invested about RM45 million in Malaysia and had plans to spend another RM20 million this year to expand its Subang facility as well as MRO facilities in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, the report added.
National news agency Bernama later reported that the government has yet to discuss the Eurocopter deal, but will do so to determine whether or not to go ahead, given the global economic crisis.
Bernama also quoted government sources as saying that the procurement of the new helicopters was only at the Letter of Intent stage and that no Letter of Award had been made to any party.