Former A-G Ambrin insists 1MDB audit report was ‘final’ and not a draft, High Court hears

Former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 13, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 13, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 — The 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) February 2016 audit report that was prepared by the National Audit Department (NAD) was “final” and not a draft, Tan Sri Ambrin Buang told the High Court today. 

Ambrin, who is the former auditor-general (A-G), told the court that if it hadn’t been for the February 24, 2016 meeting that took place with then chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, the NAD would have already presented the 1MDB February 2016 report to Parliament’s public accounts committee (PAC), scheduled for the same date. 

Ambrin was under re-examination by senior deputy public prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram who had asked him to clarify whether 1MDB’s February 2016 audit report was a draft or already finalised and ready to be presented. 

Sri Ram: Attempts have been made to make this report as a draft interim report, so can you tell us whether this is the final report that was supposed to be given to the PAC on February 24, 2016? 

Ambrin: This (February 1MDB report) is the final report. It was supposed to be tabled to the PAC. 

Sri Ram: If the meetings of February 22 and 24 had not taken place, which documents would have gone to the PAC? 

Ambrin: The final report. 

Prior to the February 24, 2016 meeting, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had called for a meeting on February 22, 2016, with Ambrin, Ali and former principal private secretary to the prime minister Tan Sri Shukry Salleh to discuss the findings of the 1MDB final report. 

The February 24, 2016 meeting eventually resulted in the removal of four items in the report including 1MDB’s two conflicting 2014 financial statements. 

A new amended report was completed in March of 2016 by the NAD and subsequently presented to the PAC. 

Previously, Najib’s lawyer, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, had applied to the court to strike out the charge, stating that the former prime minister committed no wrongdoing as the report in question that was prepared by the A-G and the NAD was merely a draft and yet to be finalised prior to the February 24, 2016 meeting. 

Earlier in court today, Arul Kanda’s lawyer, Datuk N. Sivananthan had pointed out to Ambrin that after the NAD’s exit conference with 1MDB on December 16, 2015, the firm had asked for another exit conference. 

Ambrin, however, told the court that he did not entertain such a request as the NAD wanted to complete its report by the end of January 2016. 

Sivananthan also asked Ambrin, whether in his capacity as the A-G, he is bound to entertain any auditee’s request. 

Ambrin stated that as the chief federal auditor, he remains the ultimate decision-maker on any audit report and stressed that he does not usually entertain requests from any auditee. 

Sivananthan: So you were insulted that my client went through your report but the fact is, it is up to you to decide on the report, am I right? 

Ambrin: Yes, but I don’t like an auditee to go through the report. To me, it is unethical.

Sivananthan: I understand where you are coming from Tan Sri, but if you push all that aside and come to the final report, do you stand by the report? 

Ambrin: I take all the proposed amendments in good faith. 

Ambrin, however, explained to the court that he had to entertain the request to attend the February 24, 2016 meeting as he had to “respect views from the government”. 

Ambrin claimed that it was “almost an instruction” from the then chief secretary of the government to remove his own opinions from the audit report. 

In this trial, Najib is accused of having misused his positions as prime minister and finance minister to order changes to the 1MDB audit report to avoid civil or criminal action, while Arul Kanda is accused of helping Najib commit the alleged offence. 

The trial before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan resumes on August 24. 

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