KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 13 — Then chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa had given instructions in 2016 to withhold the printing of the amended version of the final audit report on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) until then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s approval was given, a government auditor said today.
Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad who led the special audit team on 1MDB said she had presented the draft copy of the final audit report to Ali at the latter’s office at around 9.30am on February 29, 2016.
“He informed me to not print the final 1MDB audit report until Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s orders and agreement are obtained.
“As I recall, Tan Sri Ali Hamsa told me ‘don’t print the report until his greenlight’. He said that this will cause political impact on the country,” she said while testifying as the seventh prosecution witness in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy’s joint trial.
This version of the final audit report given to Ali was the amended version, following requests by Arul Kanda and several high-ranking government officials including Ali to remove content from the audit report.
The special 1MDB audit team under the National Audit Department (NAD) eventually decided to remove four items from the audit report, following a series of meetings including a February 24, 2016 meeting chaired by Ali where the amendment requests were made.
Saadatul Nafisah said today that Ali’s senior private secretary Datuk Norazman Ayob had on February 28, 2016 contacted her to relay Ali’s request to be given the draft of the amended version of the final 1MDB audit report by 4pm on the same day.
“Since February 28, 2016 is a Sunday and that report was still in the process of being updated, I informed Datuk Norazman that I will hand over that report on the next day, February 29, 2016 after obtaining Tan Sri Ambrin’s agreement,” she said, referring to her superior then Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang.
She noted that Ambrin had rejected Norazman’s request to be given the draft of the report in softcopy due to reasons of security and the NAD and the Chief Government Security Office’s (CGSO) rules.
She said she had then on February 29, 2016 gave the draft to Ali after she had obtained Ambrin’s approval.
Saadatul Nafisah said that a yet another meeting was held in Ali’s office on March 1, 2016 at 10am, with the meeting chaired by Ali also attended by Arul Kanda and the leaders of the 1MDB audit team’s sub-teams.
She said Arul Kanda had in that meeting made requests for further changes that were mostly focused on the choice of words used by the government auditors in the 1MDB audit report.
She said the 1MDB auditors did not agree to Arul Kanda’s requests for changes to the 1MDB audit report, as 1MDB was considered to have agreed with the report since it had failed to provide documents or explanations by January 30, 2016 when previously given the opportunity to do so.
She said that the amended version of the final 1MDB audit report was then sent for printing at 6pm on March 1, 2016 and that the printing was completed early in the morning the next day.
Saadatul Nafisah said Ali’s aide Norazman had asked her to provide two copies of these printed reports to be given to Najib and Ali ahead of the government auditors’ presentation of their findings to the PAC, and that she had done so after obtaining Ambrin’s approval.
She said Norazman had signed a letter to acknowledge receiving the two copies of the reports when she handed them over at Ali’s office.
She noted that the copies of the report were given to PAC members and that the special 1MDB audit team had presented the report’s findings to the PAC on March 4 and March 7, 2016.
She had pointed out however that the special 1MDB audit team had already completed its final audit report that was sent for printing on February 20, 2016 and that was initially scheduled to be presented to the PAC on February 24, 2016.
The February 24, 2016 report presentation to the PAC did not happen, due to a series of events that started with Najib asking on February 22, 2016 for a meeting with Ambrin and request for content removal from the report, and that was followed by other meetings such as the February 24, 2016 meeting for changes to be made.
In this trial, Najib was charged with abusing his position as prime minister and finance minister to order amendments in February 2016 to the auditor-general’s audit report on 1MDB before its presentation to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to avoid any civil or criminal action against him, while Arul Kanda was charged with abetting Najib in the report’s tampering.