The Kuala Lumpur High Court today heard that former auditor-general (A-G) Ambrin Buang received a clear message from senior civil servants during a meeting to discuss the 1MDB audit report that tarnishing the image of Najib Razak would be equivalent to sullying that of the nation.
Ambrin said this was communicated by the chief secretary to the government, Ali Hamsa, and Najib’s senior private secretary Shukry Mohd Salleh during the meeting on Feb 24, 2016 which lasted for nearly three hours.
“This is the message they were conveying to me when pressuring me to amend the report,” he said when examined by ad hoc prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram.
The conversation was captured when Audit Department director Nor Salwani Muhammad, who also attended the meeting, placed a recorder in the pencil case of former audit performance director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad after being asked to leave the room.
Also present at the meeting to finalise the audit report were former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy, representatives of the National Audit Department, Treasury, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Prime Minister’s Office and Ali’s senior private secretary Norazaman Ayob.
Ambrin said the civil servants were worried that it would affect the country if the report tarnished Najib’s reputation.
He said he presumed that Ali, as the nation’s top civil servant, had spoken on behalf of the government and to defend Najib.
He said Ali had also said that “we want to take care of our leadership”.
When asked what that meant, he said: “The leadership of the government under Najib.”
Asked by Sri Ram whether he was worried about Najib’s reputation, Ambrin said he was only concerned about presenting his report to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and defending its contents at the meeting.
“Did you have a political agenda?” Sri Ram asked, to which Ambrin said: “No, I was merely doing my job as the A-G.”
Ambrin, the fifth prosecution witness, also said his audit report was balanced and fair.
He said he felt frustrated because the report that was initially scheduled to be presented to PAC on Feb 24 was questioned.
“People don’t understand that we must verify facts. Such information did not come very easily.
“I can give an opinion based on facts. One may not agree with me,” he said, adding that he had been performing a constitutional duty as his appointment came from the king.
Najib is accused of using his position to obtain immunity from legal action in relation to allegations that he tampered with the 1MDB audit report between Feb 22 and 26, 2016.
The alleged offence took place at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya.
Arul, meanwhile, was charged with abetting.
The trial before judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan has been adjourned to Jan 13. – FMT