Witness: National Audit Department was coerced to make changes to 1MDB report

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 16): Former National Audit Department (NAD) audit director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad was grilled by Datuk Seri Najib Razak's lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah today over exactly how the department was coerced into excluding several paragraphs from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)'s audit report.

The senior counsel asked the witness whether the NAD was forced to make changes to the report, and told her to point out these instances, based on the transcription of the recording of the meeting held on Feb 24, 2016.

Najib is charged with abusing his power under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act to order the alteration of the audit report to prevent action from being taken against him.

Saadatul Nafisah cited a point in the meeting when she brought up the high commission AmBank received for 1MDB's RM5 billion bond issue.

She pointed to former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa's words in the transcript, which said: "Boleh la ni, AG (auditor-general) boleh guna budi bicara to drop it," referring to the issue raised by the witness during the meeting.

"Tan Sri Ali Hamsa said this, but is it coercion? It can be interpreted as an invitation for the AG to review the audit report," said Shafee.

"He did not say it directly, but indirectly he wanted that part of the report to be dropped," responded the witness.

"Did (then-Auditor General) Tan Sri Ambrin (Buang) protest or object to this suggestion?" asked the lawyer.

"No, he did not protest," she said.

"When Tan Sri Ali Hamsa said to use 'budi bicara' to drop it, you perceived it as an order for the NAD but I say it was an invitation. Do you agree?" asked the lawyer.

"I disagree," said Saadatul Nafisah.

Shafee then asked the witness to highlight other instances in the meeting, whereby the NAD was forced to make changes to the audit report, but Saadatul Nafisah said she will need some time to properly go through the transcript and will get back to him on that later.

The lawyer then went through portions of the transcript, and pointed out that Ali's words showed that he did not want to unnecessarily tarnish the reputation of the country and the prime minister.

Ali also said the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) had already made a decision — referring to former attorney-general Tan Sri Apandi Ali clearing Najib of wrongdoing in the 1MDB debacle in 2016 — and therefore any contradictions between the audit report and AGC's findings need to be clarified.

The chief secretary to the government at the time also said the audit report came at a time when Fitch Ratings decided to maintain its rating of A-, stable, on Malaysia, despite a drop in government revenue.

Shafee suggested that there was nothing wrong with Ali's intention of not unnecessarily tarnishing the country and the leadership's reputation, to which the witness agreed.

The lawyer also highlighted that Ali had said individuals in the wrong would be charged, and that he mentioned that the report should not be without negative views, so certain actions can be taken.

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