Zero Coverage of Malaysian Airspace?
In the recent seating of Parliament, Minister of Defense Dato' Seri Zahid Hamidi had revealed that there was a total of 2058 intrusion into Malaysian airspace by Singaporean aircrafts.
In a reply to that revelation, Singapore Defense Ministry official Colonel Desmond Tad said that the Defense Ministry of Singapore had replied to those allegations which was inaccurate via a protest note through the Foreign Ministry.
Whilst both side insist that they did no wrong, TnT looked into the affairs of certain defense contractors in the country to find out more about the state of our hardware. Naturally, the equipment of interest would be the country's radar, the frontline of air defense.
Here is what we found through public domain information readily available for those who looked hard enough.
The Royal Malaysian Air (RMAF) & Ministry of Defense (MINDEF) as early as 2008 announced that a new ground radar defense system contract was awarded to a European company.
But perhaps due to the sensitive nature of the contract, detailed information proved more difficult to obtain.
The Malaysian Government through MOF first issued approval in 1997 for the 'Contracterisation of RMAF Aircraft Maintenance which includes avionics of all RMAF aircraft'.
In 1998, MOF approved Zetro Services to undertake maintenance of all RMAF aircraft avionics (previously carried out by AIROD).
In November of the same year, both parties further signed an agreement for avionics and ground electronics maintenance which resulted in Zetro effectively controlling the contracts for these equipment.
Whilst the contract commenced officially in May 1999, guidelines for the 'contracterisation' was finalised in December of 1998.
The initial term of the contract was from January 1998 to December 2000. It was further extended for another 2 years with another 1 year option for the period of January 2001 to December 2003.
In January 2004, Zetro’s contract was renewed for a 5 year + 5 year option, effectively extending it to December 2013.
That was as far as contract details are concerned.
Sometime during that period, the Auditor's General report had highlighted several areas within the contract that was held by Zetro.
These include, excessive charges for 'Rate of Transportation' in which contractual amount of RM50 was different from those that were billed by Zetro which was between RM150 and RM200.
The Purchase of Test Equipment that was stipulated and required in the contract for maintenance was not adhered to, with Zetro claiming that such investment by them for a 'short' term contract was not reasonable. Having got the contract from 1998 to 2013, one can hardly call that short term. Without this investment, Zetro had depended entirely on OEM and third party vendors thus effectively dissabling themselves as effective contractors which resulted in long periods of parts unavailability and turnaround time.
The Auditor General's report also highlighted the contractors long leash on Late Delivery penalties that was 'overlooked' by contract administrators. It also made clear that the entire contract with Zetro resulting from the 'contracterisation' policy had no affective ceiling amount and lacks clear and precise minimum operational guarantees which allowed the contractor to not meet acceptable standards.
With all these points, and the Singapore Ministry of Defense refuting these allegations by insinuating that there is a serious flaw in our 'eyes and ears' of Malaysian airspace, it gets even more curious with the deafening silence of parties involved in the maintenance and operations of these radars.
Radars aside, in 1997 Zetro had obtained another contract to upgrade RMAF Trainer aircrafts to the PC7 type Mark II, a product of Pilatus of Switzerland. An audit by the principal was done as a standard requirement and it was revealed that Zetro had only scored a 3% pass. The contract was then awarded to another capable contractor.
With all these alarm bells ringing out loud, it remains to be seen if the sovereignty of our skies are more important or that of the landlord of a building that houses the MINDEF Industrial Defense division (Bahagian Industri Pertahanan).
Our efforts to get confirmation of our report with ZSSB received no positive response. - TnT