This news portal has been contacted by insiders to share that several international participants in the RMAF Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) tender initiated by the government of Malaysia in August 2021 have expressed grave concerns on the way the bids will be evaluated. But more critically, the conduct of the highest authority in the RMAF, known by the Malay acronym of PTU (Panglima Tentera Udara), has raised strong objections and complains of bias towards one particular bid.

It is reliably understood that the PTU, who is due to retire in March 2022, is leaning heavily on the evaluation process to provide an advantage to the Korean KAI FA-50. According to sources with intimate knowledge of the tender process since the beginning of the beginning of this year, the PTU has stacked the technical evaluation panel with officers aligned to him and actively influencing the evaluation process to eliminate all the other bidders on technicalities, while entering very high scores for the Koreans so that the end result will clearly favour the chosen bid.

Further, we are told that if this evaluation is allowed to continue on this basis, the very important commercial terms and palm oil countertrade offset bids of the other tenderers might not even be opened!   

The internal sources revealed to us that the PTU has commented openly that he wants the award of the tender to be made before January 2022, to hasten the evaluation without due process including the shortlisting, calling for clarification and independent review.

We were shocked with details that the PTU visited Korea recently – a clear conflict of interest. During the trip, he held high level talks to discuss his role after he retires in March with the Korean KAI and Kemalak Systems, the local agent. Further information was shared that the PTU and Kemalak CEO served in the same batch of officers at the RMAF / TUDM!

More shockingly, we have been informed that the evaluation of this RM4 Billion international tender, that should have redefined Malaysia’s air defence superiority and national security, will be done on a “paper evaluation only” basis. The international tenderers, except Korea, are incredulous that they will not be called for a clarification session to exchange more information so that all parties are clear on the expectations from the RMAF and other government officials.

It defies all logic and common sense that a RM4 Billion contract is only evaluated using a scoring system, by a panel that has been compromised on its integrity and independence. We understand the strong dissatisfaction within the ranks of RMAF relates to how the Koreans have been openly guided by the selected PTU officers to instruct and assist the Koreans how to fill in the tender documents so the Koreans will score the highest points.

It must be noted that as this is an internal tender, some companies are not native English speakers, potentially resulting in documents not conveying the true capability and value of the bids, missing out on the opportunity to clarify and explain the technical details in a face-to-face session.

To compare, no one will buy a car or a house without face-to-face interaction with an agent or the owner, getting more information and being assured the product and price gives the best value. It is ridiculous that national security and taxpayers’ money are apparently not important enough, so the PTU and panel does nit need to meet the tenderers before deciding to purchase. Why the rush to conduct the evaluation in this manner and award by January 2022. The question to be asked is what is being hidden?

The Honourable Minister of Defence should ask his officers for an immediate briefing on this information. Our information says that the Secretary General (KSU) of his Ministry has also had his contract extended, to ensure this pre-set deal with KAI FA-50 proceeds till it is signed, sealed, and delivered. There must be total transparency in this LCA tender, anything less will be a disgrace to MINDEF, TUDM and the officers who serve the country with utmost dedication.

This is RM4 Billion of the people’s money. It is not a pension fund for the few. Worse, to leave the respected RMAF / TUDM with a squadron of 18 planes that do not meet the key requirements of Air-to-Air refuelling, BVR capability and vulnerability to North Korea cyberattacks that has been reported and acknowledged by the Korean government, is a crime towards the people who rely on the security provided against incursions.

The recent crash and very unfortunate death of Malaysian pilots must never be repeated. The reliability of any combat aircrafts and safety of its pilots must be prioritised.  

Even if half of the above is true, that must compel the authorities such as MACC, MINDEF, Armed Forces Chief (Panglima Angkatan Tentera) and the Honourable Minister Dato Sri Hishamuddin to urgently investigate the information provided here. This tender must not be rushed to meet the PTU’s retirement plans.

We agree with the view that the people’s money must be spent wisely, purchasing the best aircraft according to an independent and merit-based evaluation process, and getting the best long-term value including the palm oil countertrade and technical knowledge transfer to build the nation’s aeronautics engineering capability. Dear Minister, and the watchdogs – there is certainly something that stinks here. It is in your hands to clean up any ‘najis rasuah’ (dirty corruption) and get RMAF / TUDM smelling like roses and again.

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