By Ida Lim
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 — Putrajaya should set up an independent committee in Parliament to investigate the Ministry of Defence's (Mindef) "controversial" contracts to buy defence vehicles, DAP's Tony Pua said today.
Pua's statement comes after the Sultan of Johor appeared to rap Mindef for its recent purchase of four Rapid Intervention Vehicles (RIV) for a total of RM2.76 million or RM690,000 each.
The Sultan of Johor had last Saturday reportedly compared an RIV to a personal vehicle that he bought for RM150,000, saying that "nobody should take advantage of the situation for personal gains when acquiring equipment for the Special Forces."
"The above acquisition follows a series of controversial procurement of defence vehicles by the Ministry of Defence that have raised major question marks over whether the taxpayers are getting value for their money," Pua (picture) said in a statement.
Pua said that such deals must be "investigated and scrutinised not (by) the Ministry of Defence itself, but by an independent Parliamentary Oversight Committee."
"Malaysians have no faith that the Ministry will be able to conduct an investigation that is fair and above board," Pua said.
He added that it would be "critical that the Ministry of Defence supports the set up of the Oversight Committee to prove that all is above board" in line with Putrajaya's transparency policy under the Government Transformation Programme (GTP).
"After all, if all the above transactions are of value for money to the government, then surely there is nothing to hide from this independent panel.
Pua listed a few "controversial" contracts, including Mindef's purchase of 12 helicopters for RM2.3 billion or RM193 million each in 2008 "despite the same model helicopter being acquired for only RM82.8million each by the Brazilian government."
Mindef had told the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) that the higher cost was due to "customisations" to the helicopters.
A RM6 billion contract given to Boustead Naval Shipyard last year for 6 offshore patrol vessels was "subsequently inflated" to RM9billion, said Pua.
DRB Hicom Bhd had last year received a RM7.55 billion contract for 257 units of 8x8 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), but it was "exposed" that the company was buying them from a Turkish defence contractor for RM1.7 billion, said the PAC member.
Pua said it is "beyond reasonable belief" that "customisations" carried out by DRB-Hicom to the APS would "cause the bill to be inflated from RM1.7billion to RM7.55 billion."
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Monday that he "will look into the differences in prices between the RIV awarded by Sultan Ibrahim priced at RM150,000 compared with RM690,000 sold by the supplier."
He said that he would check whether the four RIVs had different specifications from the Sultan of Johor's vehicle.