The recently declassified report on the littoral combat ship (LCS) project mentions Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s involvement, despite an earlier denial by the former defence minister.
The declassified report attached a letter sent by Boustead Naval Shipyard (BNS) on July 8, 2010 to Zahid, who was the then-defence minister, asking for a letter of intent (LOI) on the LCS project.
The letter from BNS was signed by former navy chief and then BNS managing director Tan Sri Ahmad Ramli Mohd Nor, who is now facing three criminal breach of trust (CBT) charges over the issue.
In the letter, Ramli said BNS had made plans to begin construction for the LCS project – which would take two years – and they needed a mandate from the government to ensure the OEMs’ confidence to commit to the project.
Zahid had jotted on the top right corner of the letter “SUB perolehan, sila laksanakan” (Under secretary of procurement division, please execute), along with his signature in the letter.
Ramli had said that the BNS required an LOI from the government consenting to original equipment manufacturers (OEM) for the LCS project.
“Any support and assistance from Datuk Seri on this matter is much appreciated,” the letter read.
The summary of the declassified report mentioned that after the July 8, 2010 letter by BNS was sent, Zahid gave the green light to BNS with his “sila laksanakan” endorsement on July 9, 2010.
It also mentioned that BNS had been trying to acquire an LOI from Putrajaya since 2008 after having several discussions with then-defence minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Najib then requested the Finance Ministry to issue an LOI to BNS on Jan 15, 2008.
Though it is unclear why the LOI request was not approved, the report stated that BNS attempted to engage Najib till June 2009, even though the Pekan MP had become Finance Minister by then.
On Aug 7 (Sunday), Zahid said the fiasco on the procurement of LCS should not be pinned on him as he was not the defence minister when the project was awarded.
Zahid said anyone involved in the issue should provide an explanation to the PAC.
The report on the investigation was led by former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang.
It was also revealed that BNS claimed in a letter on July 16, 2019, that it would need an additional RM1.416 billion to complete all six ships.
This is after the original ceiling allocation to the project was set at RM9 billion before being adjusted to RM9.128 billion.