KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 — Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid as education minister was the one who had prepared a 2017 letter to then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to allow a company providing diesel for Sarawak rural schools to collect payment from the government despite its failure to comply with Finance Ministry procedures, the High Court heard today.
Former Education Ministry senior official Kamarudin Abdullah suggested this today while testifying as the 10th prosecution witness in the trial of Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
Rosmah is accused of having sought and asked for millions of ringgit in bribes from Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd in exchange for helping the company get a RM1.25 billion project through direct negotiations from the Education Ministry for a solar hybrid system and the maintenance of diesel generators to supply electricity to 369 rural schools in Sarawak.
Kamarudin, who was then the secretary of the Education Ministry’s procurement and asset management division, today spoke of how Jepak Holdings had difficulty obtaining cash advances or interim payment from the government for its work in supplying diesel to the schools due to incomplete documentation and non-compliance with procedures. The contract was signed June 2017.
Kamarudin verified a letter dated July 19, 2017 which Mahdzir had sent to Najib in the latter’s capacity as prime minister and finance minister at the time.
Kamarudin said Mahdzir had in the letter asked Najib as the prime minister to consider giving a special approval to exempt Jepak Holdings from government procurement procedures.
Kamarudin noted that Najib had noted on the letter to say he “agreed to give special exemption as requested” and also instructing the Finance Ministry’s government procurement division secretary at the time Datuk Othman Semail to handle the matter.
Cross-examined by Rosmah’s lawyer Azrul Zulkifli Stork, Kamarudin agreed that this was the education minister’s appeal letter to Najib and that there would not have been a minute from Najib as finance minister if there was no such letter.
“For the court’s information, this letter was done by the minister, not through me,” Kamarudin said, pointing out that the July 19, 2017 letter itself bore the education minister’s letterhead.
When Azrul asked if the letter by Mahdzir was due to concerns that failure to release payment to Jepak Holdings would prevent the project from going on, Kamarudin replied that it would result in electricity disruption to the Sarawak schools: “Not the project cannot proceed, schools will go dark.”
Asked by Azrul if diesel supply to schools would be interrupted without the payment being made, Kamarudin agreed, saying: Yes, and for the court’s information, the Finance Ministry from the start already said it would not approve, it would not agree because of two things — no direct negotiations, and the technical discussions have not been finalised.”
Kamarudin agreed that Mahdzir had sought for the exemption on those two things, even as those two conditions remained unfulfilled at the time of the July 19, 2017 letter.
Later when re-examined by deputy public prosecutor Poh Yih Tinn, Kamarudin explained that his remark of the July 2017 letter allegedly being prepared by Mahdzir himself was due to Kamarudin’s own lack of involvement in the letter.
“Yes, this letter, the minister never called me to discuss, to prepare this letter. Never. I’m not sure if there is — I don’t think officers below me would be asked to talk with the minister.
“But this letter, only a copy was given to me. That means there was no discussion with me or seeking of information from me to prepare this letter, none. This is 100 per cent the minister,” Kamarudin replied.
When asked if he knew where Mahdzir obtained the information to prepare the July 2017 letter, Kamarudin reiterated that it was not through him, but suggested it could be through his own officers via Mahdzir’s special officer or the special officer himself.
Kamarudin said he did not know where Mahdzir obtained such information.
What Mahdzir said previously
Mahdzir, who was education minister from July 2015 to May 2018, had previously testified in court that he was pressured in a July 2017 incident by Jepak Holdings’ Saidi Abang Samsudin to help the company obtain interim payments despite non-compliance with government procedures.
Mahdzir had claimed he was then told by Rosmah’s then aide Datuk Rizal Mansor several days later to write a letter to Najib to ask for him to grant Jepak Holdings the special exemption in his capacity as finance minister.
Mahdzir had said he had then instructed his officers at the education ministry to prepare the July 19, 2017 letter to ask Najib to exempt certain incomplete documents such as the finance ministry’s approval of the project’s cost, in order to enable the ministry to pay Jepak Holdings’ interim claim.
During Rosmah’s trial, Mahdzir had also spoken of the alleged pressure that he had faced from several individuals including Rosmah, Rizal, Najib, Jepak Holdings officials, and an Umno leader to expedite the RM1.25 billion project.
The trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan resumes this afternoon, with a bank officer and former Education Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Alias Ahmad slated to be the next two prosecution witnesses testifying against Rosmah.