Rosmah’s Bribe Trial: Day Eight

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The proposal for the RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project for schools in Sarawak should have been rejected.

10am: Rosmah Mansor enters the dock.

Mukhriz Hazim/Malaysiakini

Also seen in court is former Education Ministry secretary-general Madinah Mohamad.

10.05am: Proceedings presided by judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan begin.

10.40am: The court hears from Madinah that the ministry had no plans to implement solar technology for schools in rural areas of Sarawak.

She testifies that the permanent solution for the schools would be to connect them to the grid power line.

However, since some schools are located in remote areas, the most viable solution was to use diesel generator sets.

Madinah tells the court that the solar-powered system is not suitable for some schools in Sarawak as they are located in areas which are mostly covered by trees.

11am: Madinah agrees with the suggestion from a defence counsel that the ministry should have rejected the proposal from Jepak Holdings to carry out the RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project for schools in Sarawak.

This comes as she was asked by counsel Akberdin Abdul Kader about her testimony, where Madinah said the proposal by Jepak was against the Treasury circulars, of high risk, not pressing, and that it was not in the ministry’s plan.

Madinah had also said that it was a form of wastage of taxpayers’ money.

Akberdin then confronts Madinah on the fact that she didn’t reject the proposal before, despite all what she is telling the court.

Akberdin: Why didn’t you reject it. You did not, did you? While you now condemn the plan, but you did not reject it. Am I correct or not?

Madinah: I could not reject it.

11.10am: Madinah testifies that as a gatekeeper in the ministry she had the authority to not follow an order from the prime minister which contradicts existing government rules and procedures.

She says this under examination by Akberdin, who questions her about her testimony in blaming former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak for ordering MOE to award Jepak Holdings a RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project.

Najib was also the finance minister during the material time.

However, according to Madinah, while a secretary-general has to follow procedures in matters related to government projects, there are circumstances where the finance minister can give an overriding decision.

Akberdin: My question is that why did you entertain Jepak? This is before the matter was taken up to the Finance Ministry. Why in the first place did you support the issuance of letter of intent and letter of award (to Jepak)?

Madinah: Yang Arif, in executing direct negotiation projects, although there are guidelines that needed to be followed, there were certain situations where overriding decisions can be made by the finance minister under certain circumstances.

11.20am: Madinah tells the court that under normal circumstances, a prime minister’s minute that says “please consider” or “please execute” is considered as an order at-large.

A secretary-general, she adds, has the room to apply their justification in carrying out such order and bound to follow all existing government procedures.

However, Madinah claims this was not the case with the order issued by Najib through a minute that the latter wrote on the Jepak letter in June 2016.

She says the minute was a specific order to then education minister Mahdzir Khalid to follow Najib’s earlier minute written in November 2015.

In the November 2015 minute directed at Mahdzir, Najib stated his agreement for Jepak’s proposal for a RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project for 369 schools in Sarawak.

11.24am: Proceedings adjourn for a short break.

11.41am: Court resumes.

12pm: Akberdin accuses Madinah of trying to make Najib her scapegoat in the solar hybrid project issue.

The lawyer makes the claim when he confronts Madinah on her testimony blaming Najib for ordering the project’s approval.

Akberdin says this was different from what Madinah had said in the same witness statement she produced in court, where the witness says she could reject a prime minister’s minute if it doesn’t follow government procedures.

Akberdin: I put to you that your action in this court was done in bad faith when you said the ‘punca kuasa’ (source of authority) came from the PM’s minute dated June 7, 2016.

It was in bad faith. When you are cornered, you try to find a scapegoat. You start to push the blame to others, isn’t it?

Madinah: I disagree.

12.15pm: The defence refers the court to a memo written by Madinah to Mahdzir in 2016 concerning Jepak’s proposal for the solar hybrid project.

In the memo, where parts of it were read in court by Akberdin, Madinah had told Mahdzir that the solar hybrid project was a better option to power 369 schools in rural Sarawak compared with existing diesel generator sets.

When Madinah agrees that she had indeed supported the company’s proposal in her memo to Mahdzir, Akberdin then points the court to Madinah’s written testimony, particularly the part where she said “diesel gensets was the effective method to supply electricity” to the schools.

He then puts to Madinah if she agrees that what she told the court in her testimony was contradictory to what she had written to the minister in 2016.

Akberdin: Do you agree with me that today you said gensets were the solution? (But) in your memo dated June 16, 2016, to the minister, you said solar hybrid was a better alternative (to replace gensets).

So, do you agree that this is clearly a contradiction?

Madinah: I disagree.

Akberdin: You disagree? I have read it. It is short and easy to understand. You do not agree that before this you supported (the proposal) for solar, but now you support gensets?

Madinah: From that perspective, there is a contradiction.

Akberdin: Enough. That’s the only thing I want to hear.

12.40pm: The court hears that the Education Ministry (MOE) had issued a letter of intent to Jepak for the solar hybrid project in 2016 despite “inconsistencies” in the Finance Ministry’s (MOF) approval.

Madinah says MOF’s approval for the project without providing additional budget meant that she had to issue the letter of intent to the contractor and at the same time, apply for more funds.

“As the gatekeeper, I had to issue the letter of intent, although the extra budget was not approved and there were insufficient funds.

“This (had to be done) while at the same time applying to the MOF for additional allocation (for the project),” she says.

12.45pm: Justice Zaini calls for the lunch break and tells Akberdin that he can resume his cross-examination on Madinah after that.

However, Akberdin makes a verbal application to have the court adjourned early today, saying that he is still recovering from his sore throat and has to take his medication.

The judge allows the application but first asks Akberdin how much time he needs to finish examination on Madinah.

The counsel says he would need at least one more day.

Zaini then adjourns today’s proceedings.

Earlier reports:

Feb 18, Rosmah’s Lawyer Tears into Madinah’s Testimony

Feb 17, Rosmah’s Bribe Trial: Day Seven

Feb 17, Ex-Education Ministry Sec-Gen: Business Partners Fought over RM1.2B Solar Project

Feb 13, Rosmah’s Bribe Trial: Day Six

Feb 13, Mahdzir Denies Hiring Lawyer to Broker Deal with AGC

Feb 12, Rosmah’s Bribe Trial: Day Five

Feb 12, Rosmah’s Refusal to Leave Accused Dock During Lunch Break Prompts Early Adjournment

Feb 11, Rosmah’s Defence Alleges Mahdzir Private Jets to Macau, Spore, Perth to Gamble

Feb 11, Rosmah’s Defence Lawyer Paints Ex-Minister Mahdzir as Corrupt

Feb 10, Rosmah’s Bribe Trial: Day Three

Feb 10, Ex-Minister Tells Rosmah’s Trial: I Wasn’t Bribed, Simply Followed Najib’s Orders

Feb 6, Rosmah’s Bribe Trial: Day Two

Feb 6, Driver Delivered Bags of Cash to Rosmah’s House

Feb 6, Rosmah Allegedly Pressured Ex-Minister to Award Project to Jepak

Feb 5, Rosmah’s Bribe Trial: Day One

Feb 5, Rosmah’s Lawyer Cries Intimidation over MACC’s Probe of Doctor Who Issued MC

Feb 5, RM6M Bribe in RM100 Bills

Feb 5, Rosmah’s Controversial FLOM Division Rebranded After Public Criticism

Feb 5, DPP: Overbearing Rosmah Wielded Considerable Influence