1MDB audit report amendment review ‘insulting’, says Ambrin

Meanwhile, Lim was charged at the Sessions Court in relation to the Penang Undersea Tunnel project


FORMER Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang (picture) testified it was abnormal for the National Audit Department (NAD) to amend a finalised audit report after being reviewed by the former 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) CEO.

Ambrin said he was “not happy” when former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa had authorised 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy to review the audit report.

Calling it “unprecedented”, Ambrin told the Kuala Lumpur High Court in the 1MDB audit report tampering trial that the review by Arul Kanda was an insult to the Audit Department.

“We had to go one by one (on) the issues (raised), the pressure was on us to do something that is not in our practice because during the Feb 24, 2016 meeting, we (had) already finalised the report, and next you come and tell me that we had to make amendments so that the Opposition will not spin it.

“…and I find it very insulting for the auditee to be given the honour to read my (NAD) report page by page, paragraph by paragraph. I was told to keep my opinion to myself, or write a book about it…so how would I be happy,” Ambrin said in the proceeding yesterday.

The Feb 24, 2016 meeting, which has been dubbed “coordination meeting”, was pivotal in the tampering of the 1MDB audit report.

A transcript of an audio recording of the discussion, which was secretly taped by Nor Salwani Muhammad, a former subordinate to then NAD audit director Saadatul Nafisah, is now a key exhibit in the trial.

Previously, Ambrin testified that the NAD found 1MDB had two versions of financial statements for the financial year ended March 31, 2014.

One that was submitted to the Companies Commission of Malaysia stating that 1MDB utilised the funds raised from the segregated portfolio company (SPC) investment to pay off debts and use for working capital; and the other version was sent to the Finance Ministry, Deutsche Bank AG and AMMB Holdings Bhd, stating that the funds gained from SPC investment were still available in the company’s financials.

The coordination meeting also deliberated other issues found in the 1MDB audit, including the delay of Islamic medium-term notes issuance and the involvement of Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, in a board meeting in approving a joint-venture investment between 1MDB and PetroSaudi International Ltd.

Najib’s lead defence counsel Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah grilled Ambrin on his statement in 2018 where he maintained that the 1MDB audit report was not tampered with and it was reiterated during the hearing with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The sixth prosecution witness said he did not agree with the word “tampering” and the alterations were made with his authorisation despite his unhappiness.

“In this case, there were amendments to the audit report and authorised in my capacity as the then auditor-general. I appeared before the PAC to say there was no tampering by someone outside my control. I simply do not agree with the word ‘tampering’,” he said.

Muhammad Shafee: “You may grumble about the extra work to do, but nobody put a gun to your head and said, you alter this or else…”

Ambrin: “Nobody”.

Muhammad Shafee: “You were also not very happy when your successor, Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad had issued a press statement in 2018 saying the audit report was tampered, as it affected the NAD and your integrity.”

Ambrin: “Yes, I was surprised she issued the statement on the alleged tampering in the audit report. If she (had) called me I could have explained it to her.”

Najib is charged with abusing his power as a public officer in his capacity as prime minister and finance minister in altering the 1MDB audit report.

Arul Kanda is accused of abetting Najib in tampering the company’s audit report, which was then tabled to the PAC for investigation.

The trial is adjourned until tomorrow.

Separately, former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng pleaded not guilty at the Sessions Court yesterday to receiving a RM3.3 million bribe, using his position to award the Penang Undersea Tunnel project worth RM6.34 billion to Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd.

He was accused to have committed the offence between January 2011 and August 2017 at the Chief Minister’s office in Komtar, Penang.

The charge under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, carries 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, upon conviction.