by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Friday, 24th October 2008:
Parliament should not approve a single
ringgit for the purchase of the RM2.3 billion Eurocopters if the deal is
not approved by PAC and Parliament
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman
Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid has said that the Defence Secretary-General Datuk
Abdu Bakar Abdullah will be among those called to assist the PAC to
scrutinize the Eurocopter deal.
It is no exaggeration to say that this will be the most important
investigation in PAC history, as for the first time since Merdeka 51
years ago, a major government contract – the RM2.3 billion 12 Cougar
EC725 helicopter deal to replace the Nuri helicopters – will hinge on
the report of the PAC following its scrutiny into the Eurocopter deal.
This is the only implication of the Cabinet decision at its meeting last
Friday (17th October 2008) giving "the green light" to the PAC to
investigate the Eurocopter deal.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said
in Pekan on Sunday that at his suggestion, the Cabinet "has agreed" to
the PAC scrutiny as "it was better for the PAC to inquire into the
Najib said: "The PAC can make its own conclusion of the purchase after
studying the various issues involved in the deal."
This must means the suspension of the Eurocopter deal as well as a
freeze on the Letter of Intent (LOI) issued by the Defence Ministry for
the 12 Cougar helicopters, as it will be a mockery of the Cabinet
decision as well as contempt of Parliament for the Defence Ministry to
proceed with the deal without waiting for the outcome of the PAC
For this reason, it is not only MPs but the entire nation which is
waiting for the outcome of the PAC scrutiny, as it is playing a very
important role in the final decision whether the government should go
through with the RM2.3 billion Eurocopter deal.
If the PAC and Parliament disapprove of the Eurocopter deal but the
government persists in going ahead with the procurement, then Parliament
should refuse to approve a single ringgit for the purchase of the RM2.3
Has the PAC the expertise among the PAC members to do a professional
scrutiny of the Eurocopter deal and must they depend solely on
professional and expert advice from the Defence Ministry and the Royal
Malaysian Air Force in the inquiry?
It makes nonsense of an independent, professional parliamentary scrutiny
of the Eurocopter deal if the PAC has to depend solely on the technical
and expert advice fof the Defence Ministry and the Royal Malaysian Air
The PAC must have independent and professional advice from people
knowledgeable and have working experience in the aviation industry,
especially those who know about helicopter operations and the history of
Nuri/RMAF such as an experienced helicopter pilot.
The PAC should not just summon the officials of the Defence Ministry and
RMAF, but also call up representatives from the seven helicopter tender
bidders, for they will be the best persons to inform the PAC about the
tender process, particularly whether it had been one-sided or unfair.
One visitor to my blog has suggested one aspect of the helicopter
procurement which the PAC should investigate, viz:
"The PAC needs to study not only the tender process itself but also the
thinking and policies that generated said tender which do not address
the needs of the nation or the Armed Forces adequately.
"The Combat in CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) generally denotes the
capability to retrieve personnel from hostile territory. Such
helicopters are usually fitted with enhanced self-protection systems
that are very expensive. The Nuri replacement does NOT need such systems
as the likelihood of the RMAF conducting these missions is
infinitesimal. In the trade, it is referred to as 'gold plating'.
"What they do need is adequate numbers of aircraft to ensure
availability and service coverage, which 12 does not.
"MINDEF has much more explaining to do than just how Eurocopter got the
Another comment on my blog touched on another area which the PAC must
take on board in its scrutiny to ensure accountability, integrity and
good governance, viz:
"The Defence Ministry Sec-Gen conveniently left out the fact that there
is a middleman involved in this deal. We need to pressure the government
to reveal who is behind this local company. Also, my understanding is
that there is a separate contract for maintenance, spart parts and
training which is separate from the RM 2.3 billion. We need to know
which local company is involved in this separate contract."
The PAC must able to address these issues in its report on the scrutiny
of the Eurocopter deal.
According to Azmi, two days have been fixed for the PAC inquiry into the
RM2.3 billion Eurocopter deal, next Wednesday and Thursday (Oct. 29 and
30), and he thinks that two days are adequate for the PAC to wrap up its
I am quite dubious that a two-day hearing is adequate.
The Defence Ministry secretary-general has issued a statement defending
the the decision to procure the Eurocopters after the evaluation of the
seven bids in three parts – the technical evaluation committee, the
offset evaluation committee and the price evaluation committee.
If the PAC is to do a thorough and professional scrutiny, it would have
to study the seven tender bids and their respective merits in each of
the three separate evaluation of technical, offset and price, including
the submissions by the representatives of the seven helicopter tenderers.
Or is the PAC going to depend solely on the testimony from the Mindef
and RMAF? Then the PAC will not be able to produce a satisfactory and
In any event, the PAC should table in Parliament its report on the RM2.3
billion 12 Cougar EC725 helicopter deal latest by end of November to
allow MPs to study and decide whether to have a full debate of the PAC
report before end of the budget meeting on Dec. 18, as under the
Standing Orders, a 14-day notice is required for a motion to debate the
PAC report, whether to accept or reject it.
Kit Siang, DAP
Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor