KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 20): The 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report was the only special audit report which Datuk Seri Najib Razak requested to see and amend prior to its presentation to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) during his tenure as prime minister.
At the 1MDB audit tampering trial on Wednesday before Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, former National Audit Department (NAD) audit director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad said that for a special audit, an auditee usually does not receive the audit report before it is presented to the PAC.
During her re-examination as a prosecution witness, lawyer Datuk Gopal Sri Ram had asked her whether Najib had ever requested to see and amend special reports such as the 1MDB report before.
She said Najib requesting a report and seeking amendments was never done before. When asked by the lawyer of an instance where a special report was done, she cited the klia2 audit which was approved by Najib’s Cabinet in 2015.
In 2015, then transport minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai announced the audit on the airport’s construction cost overruns was approved by the Cabinet and Najib.
Sri Ram: You described this as a special audit, is this the first time you all have done a special audit?
Saadatul: No, we have done a few before this.
Sri Ram: Can you give his lordship (Justice Mohamed Zaini) an example [of] one that you can remember?
Saadatul: We have done one, also a request by the Cabinet and on klia2.
Sri Ram: Who was the prime minister when that audit was carried out?
Saadatul: I think it was in 2012, it was Datuk Seri Najib.
Sri Ram: Did the second accused (Najib) call for a copy of that report?
Sri Ram: Did he ask [for] any changes [to] be made to that report?
Saadatul, in her re-examination by Sri Ram, explained that a special audit is an audit requested by the Cabinet, PAC or any other special authority which is not part of the NAD’s planned audits.
Saadatul then also said she had never given an auditee a copy of the report before it was to be submitted to the relevant authorities in her experience.
Sri Ram: In your experience, in a case of a special audit, has the auditee ever been given a copy of the audit report?
Sri Ram: Except for this one. How about in earlier special audits?
Saadatul: We present it to Cabinet (or whoever requested the special audit), and then after that [the auditee] will get the report.
Sri Ram: It would appear that your special audit is actually an investigative audit.
Saadatul: Something like that.
Unlike the klia2 audit report, Najib had allegedly instructed his former principal private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Salleh to instruct the NAD to make changes by dropping certain “sensitive information” from the 1MDB audit report.
Shukry had previously testified that he followed the former premier’s instructions and informed Saadatul about it.
He testified in early February 2016 that Najib had asked him to obtain the audit report on 1MDB from then auditor general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang because it “needed to be checked before it’s printed”.
Shukry said he called Ambrin at the NAD a few days later to obtain the report, but the latter was hesitant to hand it over. Shukry testified to having received the report from the NAD and handed it to then 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy to examine its contents.
“Arul Kanda had then told me that there were facts that needed to be set straight between Ambrin and 1MDB. He also had told me that he had met with Ambrin before to discuss the content of the report,” he said.
On trial are Najib and Arul Kanda.
Najib is charged with abusing his power to amend the 1MDB audit report before it was submitted to the PAC to protect himself from disciplinary, civil and criminal actions while Arul Kanda is charged with abetting the former premier.
The charges are framed under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, which specifies a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
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