PAC to quiz top brass over progress of LCS

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will summon several senior Defence Ministry officials, including the current and former ministers, over the progress of the littoral combat ship (LCS) project.

The proceedings are scheduled today for PAC to find out about what progress the multi-billion ringgit project had made from June to August this year.

Among the key people to be summoned is the ministry's new secretary-general, Datuk Seri Isham Ishak, who was appointed on Sept 26, replacing Datuk Seri Muez Abd Aziz Ishak. Also to be called in are executives from shipbuilder Boustead Naval Shipyard Sdn Bhd (BNS), as well as Royal Malaysian Navy officers.

PAC chairman Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, when contacted, said the committee did not rule out the possibility of summoning current and former ministers, including the finance minister.

The committee, she said, needed to hear explanations on matters such as the transfer of BNS shares to the special-purpose vehicle (SPV) under the Minister of Finance Incorporated (MoF Inc).

"The proceedings are important to ensure the construction of the LCS project adheres to the new timeline fixed by the government. This is to ensure that all the ships will be completed and handed over to the navy on time," Mas Ermieyati told the New Straits Times Press.

The Masjid Tanah member of parliament said there was consensus among all members of the bipartisan committee to summon these people.

It was reported in May this year that the Finance Ministry had set up an SPV to take over the shipbuilder of the LCS.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan had said the LCS project would still be monitored by the Project Monitoring Committee (PMC) jointly chaired by the secretaries-general of the Defence Ministry and Treasury.

The LCS project had been mired in controversy when not a single ship was completed although the government had paid RM6.083 billion to BNS.

Mas Ermieyati said the RMN should receive the first of the five LCS ships, KD Maharajalela, in 2026, under the new construction timeline.

"The ships wil be handed over in phases (to the navy) and the final cost will be more than RM11 billion compared with the RM9.4 billion initially budgeted.

"PAC is expected to table a report on the progress of the LCS construction for the period between October last year and May this year, in the Dewan Rakyat on Oct 11.

"The report will explain to the people why the navy will only receive five instead of six ships, as well as the increase in the cost of the construction," she said.

An LCS is a relatively small naval vessel designed for operations close to shore. They are meant to be agile and stealthy and can be compared to corvettes.

Malaysia's Maharajalela-class LCS vessels are based on the Gowind-class corvette designed by Naval Group, formerly known as DCNS, of France.

Apart from the Maharajalela, the other ships are to be named KD Syarif Masahor, KD Raja Mahadi, KD Mat Salleh, KD Tok Janggut and KD Mat Kilau. With there being one less vessel, it is unknown which name will be dropped.

On other matters, Mas Ermieyati said the committee was satisfied with the explanation by Ayer Hitam MP Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong during PAC's fourth proceedings on Sept 21 related to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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