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‘Caracal’ deal clarified

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 13: Kuwait’s Ministry of Defense has issued a clarification on inquiries made by several lawmakers about the existence of a technical malfunction in Caracal aircraft, specifically in relation to two aircrafts, ahead of their delivery by the manufacturer.

The ministry has made the decision to form a specialised technical committee tasked with examining reasons that prevented the receipt of the aircraft and addressing the root causes behind this in order to prevent a repeat of the matter.

The move was made out of complete concern for the safety of air force pilots and employees, in preservation of public funds, and in response to the rightful statements and queries posed by the lawmakers, said the ministry in a statement.

Furthermore, the ministry confirmed the “suspension of its receipt of these aircraft at the present time, pending the conclusion of the committee’s inspection of the problem and the receipt of the manufacturer’s report on the malfunction suffered by some of the aircrafts.”

The ministry will then take the “appropriate decision about the aircrafts’ formal delivery by the manufacturer, in light of positive results in this regard, with full assurances received that no technical malfunction would occur in the future.”

Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Essa Ahmed Al-Kandari has responded to rumors about his alleged involvement in the Airbus bribery issue which surfaced after British daily, The Guardian, published a report on court verdicts against Airbus.

In a press statement, Al-Kandari explained he had no intention to comment on the issue but somebody mentioned his name and tried to involve him in the issue, accusing him of corruption as the deal between Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) and Airbus was finalized during his term as Communications Minister. He disclosed that he read the court verdicts convicting Airbus and officials from five countries of bribery.

He pointed out these five countries do not include Kuwait; stressing no Kuwaiti citizen, senior official, public institution or company were mentioned in the verdict. Nevertheless, he decided to clarify the issue through a chronological presentation about the deal, supported by official documents. He said the deal started on March 11, 2013, while he assumed the minister of communications post in August 2013.

He showed a letter dated March 11, 2013, that former KAC Board Chairman Sami Al-Nesf addressed to Managing Director of Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) Bader Al-Sa’ad; informing the latter that KAC has started receiving offers from aircraft companies. Al-Sa’ad responded the next day, saying that purchasing and leasing aircraft is part of the job of KAC as per Law No. 22/2012 while KIA represents the General Assembly.

Al-Kandari showed the minutes of the meeting of the Purchase Committee on May 7, 2013; during which the committee unanimously approved the offer of Airbus including the legal, technical and financial aspects. He said the KAC Board of Directors met on May 8, 2013, to endorse the committee’s decision.

On May 13, 2013; the board chairman of KAC sent a letter to the then state minister for housing affairs and minister of communication, informing him that KAC approved the offer of Airbus for the purchase of 25 airplanes.

The letter included details of the deal such as the specifications and prices of the airplanes, he added. He asserted all the abovementioned procedures were taken before he took charge of the ministry, indicating he received a letter from Al-Nesf on Nov 14, 2013, stating that the contract will be signed within a few days.

He said the aforementioned documents were attached to the letter. “My role started when I sent a letter to Al- Nesf instructing him to take the necessary legal and technical procedures, in addition to obtaining written approval from KIA,” he revealed. He added that he forwarded a letter to then State Audit Bureau (SAB) Director Abdulaziz Al-Adassani, asking him to assign financial controllers to follow up the deal.

He sent a copy of the letter to the KAC board chairman for the latter to be aware that the deal would be supervised and monitored by SAB. Meanwhile, MP Dr Adel Al-Damkhi pointed out in a press statement that hints on resorting to grilling is in the interest of the public as the aim is to call the attention of the concerned minister to address shortcomings.

He thanked the Ministry of Defense for its quick response to his statement about the Caracal helicopters deal on Wednesday. He added the ministry later issued a statement on its intention to suspend receiving the other helicopters and then form a committee to conduct investigations on the letter recommending continuation of receiving the helicopters despite the technical errors found earlier, asserting there is no need to wait for the company to release its technical report. He said the investigation committee should include in its report the opinions of Kuwaiti pilots, who fl ew the aircraft, on the technical errors. He also asked about the procedures taken by the Ministry of Defense after discovering the errors, names and specializations of the investigation panel members, and if the shipping of the aircraft is covered by insurance.

In another development, MP Ali Al- Daqbasi urged Kuwaiti retirees to attend the session slated for Feb 18, 2020, as the Assembly will discuss and vote on bills about retirees’ loans and social security. He said their presence is very important as part of public monitoring, while clarifying that it is possible to approve these bills even if the government has a different point of view. Also, Rapporteur of Health Affairs Committee MP Sa’adoun Hammad disclosed the committee on Thursday continued its discussion on the causes of death of Abdulaziz Al-Rashedi – a child, Hanan Al-Adwani and Nawal Al-Kandari due to suspicions of medical errors.

He confirmed the child’s father, Minister of Health Dr Bassel Al-Sabah and senior ministry officials attended the meeting. He said it has been proven that autopsy was conducted on the child, but the ministry was not aware as it did not carry out the task.

He added the committee will invite the minister and other concerned ministry officials to its upcoming meetings to listen to the statements of the relatives of Al- Adwani and Al-Kandari, after which the committee will submit its report on these three cases.

Talking about another issue, Hammad said the grace period given to the committee to discuss the hazardous effects of using 5G Internet has ended, so they requested for three months extension considering the issue has many aspects such as the technical side.

By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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