Former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang told the High Court today that he gave the order for government auditor Nor Salwani Muhammad to save the only surviving copy of the final audit report on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) after they were forced to make changes.
Ambrin confirmed he told Salwani to keep the copy of the 1MDB audit report bearing the watermark number 09 three years ago, while the other copies were all ordered to be destroyed due to the amendments.
“Therefore, the National Audit Department’s Audit Report on 1MDB that have already been printed can no longer be used as there are amendments, and I have already ordered that all 1MDB Audit Reports that had been printed to be destroyed except for one copy for Puan Nor Salwani’s safekeeping,” he said while testifying against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
Ambrin also confirmed that the 1MDB audit report was a document classified under the Official Secrets Act but pointed out that he has the authority to handle such classified government papers.
“Yes, I take note that at that time, we had already classified under OSA, so we have to follow procedures on how to handle OSA documents, among the procedures is pelupusan. According to procedure, it should be destroyed. But I asked for one copy to be kept by Nor Salwani.
“Because I as the auditor-general, I’m already given certification. Under the OSA regulations, you must get certification to handle OSA documents. I got the certificate to handle OSA so I can handle and keep for my own work, for internal use,” he said when asked by deputy public prosecutor Rozaliana Zakaria if there was any reason for Salwani to keep a copy of the 1MDB audit report.
Salwani had last week said that she had preserved this single copy with the watermark number 09, before passing it to Ambrin’s successor Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad in 2017.
Ambrin explained today that this report bearing the watermark number 09 was the NAD’s final audit report on 1MDB, and that he was the one who had ordered Salwani on February 20, 2016 to print them out.
He said a total of 60 copies of this report were printed out on February 21, 2016, with six copies distributed out on February 22, 2016, including to Najib and Ambrin himself.
Ambrin said the NAD had already decided to present this final report on 1MDB’s audit to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on February 24, 2016, and that this report would have been given to the PAC if no meetings were held to discuss removal of contents from the report.
Ambrin noted that Najib had on February 22, 2016 personally asked him to remove the mention of 1MDB having two different versions of its financial statement for 2014, and that then chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa had later asked for the government auditors to attend a high-level meeting on February 24, 2016 to decide on changes to the report.
“If the PAC meeting on February 24, 2016 was not postponed, the first 1MDB audit report with the watermark 09 should have been the final 1MDB audit report. But the meetings that I was asked to attend between February 22 and 24, 2016 actually created the space for the amendments to be carried out,” Ambrin said.
As a result of the February 24, 2016 meeting which Ali last week said was held at Najib’s request, the NAD led by Ambrin which had resisted the demands for changes was eventually forced to agree to remove four main items from the report.
This February 24 meeting was chaired by Ali, and was attended by others such as 1MDB’s Arul Kanda, Najib’s aide Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh, Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad from the Attorney-General’s Chambers and Finance Ministry officials.
Following the February 24 meeting, the NAD then printed a new version of the 1MDB audit report that were fully printed out on March 2, 2016.
In the end, Ambrin – who said he was put in a difficult position due to Najib’s orders for the amendments – then presented the amended version of the 1MDB audit report to the PAC.
The NAD’s presentation of the report to the PAC was done on March 4 and March 7, 2016 in Parliament.
In this trial, Najib is accused of having misused his positions as prime minister and finance minister to order for changes to the 1MDB audit report before it was finalised and presented to the PAC in order to avoid civil or criminal action, while Arul Kanda is accused of having helped Najib commit the alleged offence.
The trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan resumes tomorrow morning. – MMO