by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by BLOOMBERG
THE National Audit Department (NAD) auditors were under pressure to drop issues of concern in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report following indirect instructions from former top government officials, according to a witness.
In the 1MDB audit report tampering trial, NAD former audit director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad testified that the government agency was “forced” to remove certain items raised in the audit report as solicited by the former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa.
She told the Kuala Lumpur High Court last week that Ali conveyed the directives during a so-called coordination meeting on Feb 24, 2016.
Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s lead defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, however, said Ali did not coerce the NAD to have the parts in questions to be removed from the report, based on the audio transcript of the meeting.
Muhammad Shafee argued that the then government wanted to clarify things and “rounding the jagged” relating to the issues raised in the audit report.
Saadatul Nafisah said she and former Auditor-General (A-G) Tan Sri Ambrin Buang were defending their findings in the report in that meeting that was held at Ali’s office in Putrajaya.
Muhammad Shafee: Was there anything in the meeting that indicates the chief secretary or anyone else forced you or Ambrin to accept a certain decision?
Saadatul Nafisah: Yes, there was. Muhammad Shafee asked her to tell the court which part of the transcript that demonstrated that, in which she referred to two paragraphs that showed Ali was asking Ambrin to expunge certain parts in the audit report on the latter’s discretion.
One of the excerpts of the transcript stated that Ali said to Ambrin: “This can be done. The A-G can use his discretion to drop this”.
Muhammad Shafee: How did you view this statement as an act of force?
Saadatul Nafisah: It was a force because if the NAD did not expunge it, the issue (the instruction) would crop up once again.
The court has previously heard that Ali asked for the amendments to the 1MDB audit report in order to “take care of our leadership”, believed to favour Najib, who was also the finance minister at the material time.
Saadatul Nafisah testified that 1MDB was not being “cooperative” during the audit process and only supplied 60% of the information requested.
The seventh prosecution witness said the NAD had waited for months to get information from 1MDB, resulting in it having to resort to third parties such as Bank Negara Malaysia for facts.
She added that former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy promised the auditors to provide information, but it never came through.
“Arul Kanda was cooperative by saying ‘I will give this’, ‘no problem’. But I didn’t know to what extent his cooperation was. When we met him, he promised us but the information never came to us.
“He should inform us rather than make us wait for months. We only got 60% of the information we asked. It took a very long time,” she said during the cross-examination.
Muhammad Shafee questioned NAD’s action of not giving Arul Kanda the audit report when he requested it during the coordination meeting, claiming the agency denied the auditee’s rights to verify and provide an explanation.
Saadatul Nafisah in response said the document was classified under the Official Secret Act 1972, while 1MDB also had the chance to provide answers to the issues raised in the audit during an exit conference in December 2015.
Arul Kanda was accused of abetting Najib in tampering the company’s audit report, which was then tabled to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee for investigation.
The case was adjourned until further dates are fixed.