29 October 2011

Zahid Eyes New Air Force Support Vehicles for Next Year

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 - Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi today said the Royal Malaysian Air Force will buy new aviation ground support vehicles (AGSV) next year as the existing fleet was becoming too costly to maintain.

“The majority of AGSV are old and need to be replaced. The Auditor-General’s Report clearly shows the critical need for the new assets,” the defence minister was quoted by Bernama Online today.

“I think we will replace the vehicles next year using existing allocations as we have to adhere to certain ceilings in our budget,” the report quoted him further.

Zahid then urged the federal opposition not to question his ministry’s need to spend on new assets during times of peace, saying the Auditor-General’s report should “open their eyes” to reality.

The Defence Ministry’s expenditure has come under repeated scrutiny by Pakatan Rakyat (PR), which has continually sought explanations for the multi-billion defence deals involving the ministry.

The latest was a query as to why the ministry paid RM7.6 billion for armoured personnel carriers (APC) procured by DRB-Hicom Bhd for only US$559 million (RM1.7 billion).

A RM6 billion contract for six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) drew similar attention at the start of the year.

An embarrassing failure by one of the country’s billion-ringgit Scorpene submarines to submerge last year attracted further reservations over the prudence of the country’s defence spending.

While the government maintains that such contracts must be classified as a matter of national security, PR has insisted that Malaysians have a right to know how public funds were being spent given the ministry’s history of cost overruns.

Anti-graft watchdog Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) has also urged the government to stop to using national security as an excuse for the secrecy that ends up hiding graft involving defence contracts, and consider appointing independent monitors for such deals.

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