Malaysia's ex-auditor-general says 'insulting' that 1MDB chief could review his audit report
KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Malaysia’s former top government auditor Ambrin Buang told the High Court on Monday (Aug 10) that it was “insulting” to him that the 1MDB’s chief was allowed to review an audit report by his department on the state fund, page-by-page, before it was published.
Tan Sri Ambrin, now a retiree, also said it was “abnormal” when an auditee was able to review the report and sit in a meeting with other stakeholders, which resulted in several amendments being made to 1MDB’s audit report in February 2016.
The former Auditor-General said this during the cross-examination by lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who is representing ex-premier Najib Razak in the audit-tampering trial.
Mr Ambrin, 71, told the court: “I find it insulting when the auditee is given the honour of reviewing our report page-by-page, paragraph-by-paragraph.
“I was told to keep my opinion to myself and write a book about it.
“How could I be happy.”
Mr Ambrin was referring to a meeting held on Feb 24, 2016 at the office of then-chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa.
The meeting was attended by 1MDB’s chief executive officer at the time, Arul Kanda Kandasamy, along with representatives from the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Prime Minister’s Office.
The court had earlier heard testimonies that there was an agreement to omit four issues from the audit report, including the issue of two conflicting financial statements and the presence of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho at 1MDB meetings.
Najib is charged with abusing his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report to avoid any action being taken against him, while Arul Kanda is charged with abetting Najib in making the amendments to the report.
If found guilty, the could be jailed for up to 20 years and fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000 (S$3,300).
Mr Ambrin in his testimony said auditors should be free to express their opinion in their reports as such is the normal practice.
Mr Ambrin said his team had to do “abnormal” things beyond normal practice during the Feb 24 meeting, before the report was submitted to Parliament’s bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
He added that the 1MDB audit was special as it was mandated by the Cabinet under Najib at the time and the National Audit Department.
Mr Ambrin said that Najib’s then-principal private secretary Tan Sri Shukry Salleh as well as Tan Sri Ali expressed the need for the report to be amended to avoid the Opposition “spinning” its contents.
During the cross-examination, Shafee asked the witness if someone had “pointed a gun to his head” to make him change the contents of the report and Mr Ambrin disagreed.
To another question as to whether Najib’s former principal private secretary Mr Shukry had specifically pressured him to make the changes, Mr Ambrin answered no.
The trial before Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan will continue on Wednesday (Aug 12).
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