1MDB audit: Ambrin insists did not compromise integrity despite changes to report

Former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court November 28, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court November 28, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 — Former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang today declared that his integrity and that of the National Audit Department (NAD) he was leading was not compromised despite them being forced to make changes and remove content from their final audit report on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Testifying against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy, Ambrin resolutely and firmly rejected suggestions by Najib’s lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah that he had compromised his integrity as auditor-general to accommodate the requests for changes.

Shafee: Whatever changes that you made, are you telling the court that you compromised your integrity to accommodate?

Ambrin: No. No.

Shafee then persisted in asking: “Did you compromise your position, and your department’s position when you accommodated certain changes, in the sense that you sell out your profession?”

Ambrin, who had his arms crossed, then replied: “No, I didn’t sell out my profession.”

Quizzed by Shafee, Ambrin said that the integrity of the 1MDB audit report was still kept intact despite the changes that were made, as the major findings of the audit such as 1MDB being debt-laden and having cash flow problems as well as observations of 1MDB’s poor corporate governance were still preserved in the amended version.

“Despite the changes made in the report, we still maintain our report still has integrity to be handed to the police,” he said, pointing out that the government auditors would have to defend its report and answer all questions on it to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Ambrin said the truth of the government auditors’ fact-finding was not compromised despite the changes, saying that he was “sure about the facts”.

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court November 28, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court November 28, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Shafee was cross-examining Ambrin over a series of meetings in February 2016, which eventually resulted in the removal of four main items from the final 1MDB audit report.

Ambrin today shared his frustration at being pressured into making the changes, pointing out that the report was already finalised and printed out and that he was already scheduled to present the report to the PAC on February 24, 2016.

But Ambrin was unable to present the 1MDB audit report to the PAC on February 24, as Najib had on February 22 told him to remove certain content and meetings held on February 24 and February 25 took place where requests for changes were made by senior government officials and 1MDB’s Arul Kanda.

Shafee also today asked Ambrin on how he would respond if requested to do illegal or immoral acts.

Shafee: If someone asks you to do an illegal act or an act that doesn’t have integrity, compromises your integrity, will you do it?

Ambrin: Of course I won’t, it will affect my integrity.

Shafee: If you didn’t like, if someone was suggesting to you to do something that borders on illegality or even immoral, first of all you said you would not do it, and this includes even direction from prime minister?

Ambrin: Of course I won’t do it. Can I add to that? In this case you are talking about amendments, why do I agree to amend? I made amendments based on my judgment as auditor-general based on facts given to us at that particular time. As I said, facts are facts, we are entitled to give our opinion. But in the (Feb) 24th meeting, you heard all things being raised about our opinion. So to me they are not respecting our opinion as auditor-general.

Shafee: Did anybody ask you to change fact-finding, please change this fact?

Ambrin: This was what was implied in the meeting, this needs to be changed, this needs to be added, this needs to be dropped.

Shafee further pressed Ambrin on what choices he had if he was pressed to commit criminal actions.

Ambrin then noted that there was “no choice” in the matter of the 1MDB audit report: “I was under pressure to make all those amendments because they were saying these would be spinned, national interest. These are said not by junior officers, but senior officers.”

“As far as I’m concerned, my conscience is very clear,” he later added.

Ambrin acknowledged that he could lodge police reports if pushed to do illegal or immoral acts and if he had the facts at hand, but said he did not see any need for him to make a police report at that time.

Agreeing that he could have resigned as auditor-general if his integrity was affected, Ambrin confirmed he did not tender his resignation.

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