KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 — Government auditor Nor Salwani Muhammad’s act of recording a February 24, 2016 meeting where the National Audit Department (NAD) were requested and pressured to make changes to the final audit report on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is just a “small matter”, her former boss Tan Sri Ambrin Buang said when defending her actions.
Ambrin, who was the auditor-general then, told the High Court today that he was not aware then that Nor Salwani had recorded the 2016 meeting where senior government officials and 1MDB’s then CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy sought for amendments to be made.
Ambrin however said that Nor Salwani did not need to ask permission from either him or the then chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa before doing the recording, pointing out that she had only done so for the government auditors’ internal work.
Ambrin confirmed that only he and the NAD’s special 1MDB audit team leader Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad were present in the meeting room on February 24, 2016, as the other audit team members were asked to leave presumably due to the lack of space in the room.
Shafee then asked Ambrin about Nor Salwani’s placing of a voice recorder in Saadatul Nafisah’s pencil case before leaving the room, describing Nor Salwani as having “secretly” done so.
Ambrin: Now I know at that time. I didn’t know.
Shafee: She didn’t ask your permission?
Ambrin: She didn’t have to.
At this point, High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan highlighted that Nor Salwani had last week disagreed with Shafee’s suggestion that she had “secretly” placed the recorder, noting that this was a point of contention.
Shafee then said he meant that none of Nor Salwani’s bosses knew what she was doing then, but said he would present submissions to argue that it was not done openly.
While agreeing that Nor Salwani could have asked the meeting’s chairman Ali if she could do an audio recording for her work, Ambrin, however, pointed out that she would not have to make the recording if she was allowed to remain in the meeting room to take notes.
Shafee: Don’t you think it’s appropriate to ask the chairman, ‘Can I record proceedings as a matter of courtesy and matter of appropriateness?
Ambrin: I don’t. To me, it’s not necessary to ask permission. Because the whole intention is to take note for our own use, for our own department.
Shafee: You sanction this now? That she put this device in the pencil box?
Ambrin: Ya to me, it’s a small matter. It’s not a big issue.
Ambrin confirmed that no one had pointed out to Ali that Nor Salwani’s presence in the meeting was required for the purpose of note-taking for the NAD’s work, but noted he had another officer — Saadatul Nafisah — in the same meeting that could take notes.
Shafee continued to argue that the recording was done in a “surreptitious” fashion, but Ambrin said he did not even know in the first place that such a recording was made and had only found out later during these two years when giving his statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
As Shafee continued to insist that alternative arrangements could have been made to enable Nor Salwani’s presence in the meeting, Ambrin said: “I must stress that whatever it is, this is for internal review, it’s not for preparing minutes of meeting. Nobody asked her to prepare minutes of meeting, it’s for working purpose.”