Unusual For National Audit Dept to prepare interim report for 1MDB audit report involving auditees, says witness

Former National Audit Department director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex February 23, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Former National Audit Department director Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex February 23, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — The High Court today was told that it was unusual for the National Audit Department (NAD) to prepare an interim audit report involving auditees prior to an exit conference.

Former audit director of the NAD, Saadatul Nafisah Bashir Ahmad, 68, said the interim report was produced for the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) audit report, and it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on July 9 and 10, 2015 by the 1MDB special audit team.

 “The interim report, under normal circumstance we don’t do this,” said the seventh prosecution witness during cross-examination by counsel Datuk N. Sivananthan at the trial of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and former 1MDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy on alleged tampering of the 1MDB final audit report.

An exit conference is part of the typical audit process where those being audited are given the chance to provide feedback or responses to the findings by the auditors.

Previously, it was reported that NAD had already conducted an exit conference with 1MDB on December 16, 2015, as per standard operating procedure after completing their audit and during this conference, the issue on 1MDB’s two conflicting financial statements for 2014 was raised.

Further questioned by Sivananthan, who is representing Arul Kanda, the witness said she had attended subsequent meetings with Arul Kanda after the 2015 exit conference and the latter had asked for a copy of the interim report on a meeting held on February 24, 2016.

It was during this meeting that decisions were made to remove or change certain parts of the audit report, including omitting mention of 1MDB’s two conflicting financial statements for 2014.

Sivananthan: In these meetings, were you the coordinator (of the meeting)?

Saadatul Nafisah: Only on the 25th. I attended meetings with Arul Kanda on the 25th, 26th and 29th Feb of 2016.

Sivananthan: Apart from the four main issues, were there other issues amended here and there in the report?

Saadatul Nafisah: Other than that would be the wording used in the report, for example the word “Pindaan Tanpa Kelulusan”, but I can say most of it consisted of “cosmetic” amendments.

The witness added that no official minutes of meeting were recorded during these meetings with Arul Kanda but NAD had taken discussion notes.

Towards the end of the proceedings, Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, who is leading the prosecution team, informed the court they will be calling around six more witnesses before concluding the prosecution case.

 “Four of them will be very short witnesses (in terms of duration of their testimonies) and maybe one long witness. This will be one of the four formal witnesses. As for prosecution, we might need another 10 days,” said Sri Ram.

Najib, 67, was charged with using his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report which was already “finalized” by the Auditor-General before the report was “finalised again” and presented before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to avoid any action being taken against him.

Arul Kanda, 45, was charged with abetting Najib in making amendments to the report to protect the Pekan MP from being subjected to disciplinary, civil or criminal action in connection with 1MDB.

They were charged under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, which provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

The trial before judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan continues on August 11. — Bernama

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