Rosmah trial: Ex-MoE sec-gen accused of negligence for failure to inform Najib of irregularities

Former auditor-general Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 18, 2020. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Former auditor-general Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 18, 2020. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — The former Ministry of Education (MoE) secretary-general Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad did not do everything in her power to inform former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that Jepak Holdings were the wrong company to offer the RM1.25 billion solar energy project to, the High Court heard today.

Madinah, the sixth prosecution's witness in the ongoing bribery trial of Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, was painted by defence lawyer Datuk Akberdin Abdul Kader as failing to perform due diligence and ministry protocol and guidelines in asking the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to release the Letter of Award (LOA) for the project to Jepak Holdings.

He questioned Madinah as to why in her witness statement she kept saying she was not keen on Jepak handling the huge project, but later on in several letters and memos to the ministries she had written positively about Jepak Holdings.

Akberdin also said that Madinah did not follow the guidelines pertained in MoF's Treasury circulars even though she had the authority to deny or go against the wishes of the prime minister in such cases where a huge government budget is needed from the MoF.

He said Madinah had a duty to inform the prime minister if she had any trepidation regarding any government project.

Akberdin: Do you agree with me, although the prime minister made those two minutes with your boss Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, you still had the authority to not obey these instructions if it was not in line with Treasury circulars which contains guidelines to adhere to for government projects?

Madinah: Correct.

Akberdin: Then why are you making a U-turn today, why in court today, you complain about Jepak and yet when you were there, you strongly supported the Jepak project, why are you making a U-turn today?

Madinah: I received instructions from Mahdzir to immediately implement Datuk Seri Najib's instructions and the decision, whether to approve this project lies with the Finance Ministry.

At that time when I received instructions from Mahdzir to carry out Datuk Seri Najib's instructions, I brought that application to MoF because the final decision which is the approval for this direct negotiated project lies with the MoF and not the Education Ministry.

Akberdin: My question is, before reaching MoF, why did you even entertain this request? You already said it had many weaknesses so in the first place why did you support the issuance of the LOI (letter of intent) and LOA?

Madinah: In implementing projects through direct negotiations, despite there being guidelines that have to be followed, there are also certain situations where overriding decisions can be made by the finance minister under certain circumstances.

Akberdin: But if you felt there were issues with Jepak Holdings undertaking this project, did you tell the PM this project shouldn't go through? It's your duty as the overlooking officer for this project to inform the PM as the PM is a busy man.

Madinah: I told Datuk Seri Najib in Parliament that MoE can't undertake this project as there is no budget for it.

Akberdin: But in paragraph 159 of your witness statement you said you told Najib it's already been forwarded to MoF as MoE has no budget for this project correct? You did not tell him anything more.

Madinah: Yes.

Akberdin: I'm saying to you that you have been negligent and careless in your duties as you did not give your full advice to the PM.

Madinah: I disagree.

Madinah retired on September 2, 2016 and in her last act before retiring she decided to send a letter to MoF requesting for the LOA to be granted to Jepak Holdings.

Madinah maintained she was always working under orders and that with Najib's handwritten instructions on Jepak Holdings' letters, she felt it was important to adhere to the orders from the Prime Minister's Office despite having second thoughts.

Last week Madinah said she felt compelled to take Rosmah’s request seriously when the latter told her to look into Jepak Holding's application on the solar hybrid project during a National Permata Programme event in June 2016.

Madinah explained that Rosmah’s request had created a “sense of urgency” and failing to follow through with said request could have resulted in her being penalised by the then prime minister.

Rosmah, 69, is facing three charges involving the alleged soliciting of RM187.5 million and receiving of bribes totalling RM6.5 million from Jepak Holdings managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin in exchange for helping the company secure the solar energy project to supply electricity to 369 rural schools in Sarawak.

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