Bribery trial: Rosmah asked when MOE would sign contract with company, progress of govt’s payments to company, says witness

Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court March 11, 2020. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court March 11, 2020. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — Both Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and her then aide Datuk Rizal Mansor had asked about matters relating to Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd’s RM1.25 billion project from the Education Ministry, including when the contract could be signed and when payments could be made, a witness told the High Court today.

Datuk Seri Alias Ahmad, who was secretary-general of the Education Ministry from September 2016 to May 2018, said he knew Rizal to be Rosmah’s special officer based on news reports.

Alias said that Rizal had contacted him around the time when Jepak Holdings was facing problems in getting advance and progress payments from the government, adding that Rizal had “requested for the payment process to Jepak Holdings to be expedited”.

“I don’t remember if that request was for advance payment or progress payment. At that time, I explained to him about the cause of the problem where payments cannot be made,” he told the court today as the 12th prosecution witness in Rosmah’s bribery-for-contract trial.

“I gave an explanation to Datuk Rizal and took serious notice of his request since his position is Datin Seri Rosmah’s special officer. I also had the thought that Datuk Rizal made that request on behalf of Datin Seri Rosmah. Therefore, I asked my officers to immediately solve the problem that arose,” he added.

Alias said he could not recall the exact date when Rizal made this request, but said he was certain that this incident had occurred before the Education Ministry signed the contract with Jepak Holdings on June 20, 2017 for the solar hybrid project.

A few weeks after Rizal spoke to him, Alias said he was contacted by another of Rosmah’s special officers — Datuk Seri Azizah Abod — whom he said he had known since she was a secretary-general at the Defence Ministry.

“She told me that Datin Seri Rosmah wished to ask about the status of the solar hybrid project after the meeting of the board of trustees of Yayasan Permata Malaysia. I am a permanent member of that meeting. I replied ‘OK’ only at that time,” he said.

Alias said that the Yayasan Permata Malaysia’s trustees meeting also took place before the contract was signed and while there was an issue regarding the advance payment.

“When that meeting ended, Datin Seri Rosmah asked me about the progress of the advance payment to Jepak and when that payment can be made as the company cannot operate without that payment,” he said, adding that he had however explained to Rosmah that Jepak Holdings could not be paid as it was using an unapproved insurance which would result in a breach of the government procurement process.

“Datin Seri Rosmah also asked me when the contract can be signed and to expedite that matter as if the contract is not signed, ‘progress’ payment cannot be made. I told her that Jepak was not able to complete the draft of the contract document to be scrutinised by the Education Ministry. That conversation ended there when I asked to leave,” he added.

“I took Datin Seri Rosmah’s query seriously as that query came from the wife of the prime minister,” he said, referring to Rosmah’s status then as the wife of then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

“I ordered my officers to find a solution to Jepak’s problems relating to the issues of advance payment, progress payment and the preparation of the contract document,” he added.

While the contract was eventually signed on June 20, 2017, the problems regarding payment started earlier with Jepak requesting in a February 2017 letter to Alias for an advance payment of RM130 million or 9.81 per cent of the yet-to-be-signed contract’s value.

The Education Ministry procurement and asset management division’s then secretary Kamarudin Abdullah had previously testified during this trial that the Finance Ministry had in May 2017 rejected the bid for a RM130 million advance to Jepak, and that government rules limited the advance payable to 25 per cent of the contract value or a maximum RM10 million depending on which amount is lower, while also requiring compliance with certain conditions before Jepak could be paid the advance.

Kamarudin said there were issues such as incomplete documentation that caused Jepak to be unable to obtain advance payment even when it had been supplying diesel for five months for generators for the Sarawak schools, noting that the Finance Ministry eventually on June 20, 2017 allowed interim claims by Jepak for the diesel that had been supplied since the contract had been signed by then.

Kamarudin had said that an interim payment of more than RM64 million was during his tenure paid to Jepak out of the over RM92 million it claimed for diesel supply from January to April 2017. Kamarudin had said he was transferred to another position after August 2017.

Both Kamarudin and Alias testified that Najib had in July 2017 granted special exemption for Jepak from the government’s procurement procedures.

In this trial, Rosmah is facing several charges, including allegedly receiving a RM5 million bribe and a RM1.5 million bribe from Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd’s Saidi Abang Samsudin on the dates of December 20, 2016 and September 7, 2017 in exchange for helping the company get the RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project.

The trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan resumes this afternoon.

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