Review of report that ‘cleared’ najib

(NST) – The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will “resurrect and deconstruct” its previously-concluded report on the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal that “cleared” former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. 

What will land on the table of the current committee, which was appointed in August, are crucial documents, including those which were not made privy to PAC in the past, as well as “possible new evidence”.

Its chairman, Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee, said as part of PAC’s 10 terms of reference in the 1MDB proceedings, the committee would relook documents that had weighed in on the previous findings, including those which could not be verified by the Audit Department.

Najib had been lined-up as among those who will be called up before the committee.

“I understand (that he) was cleared, but we will refer again to the statements that we have now.

“I cannot say much about it now because we have yet to meet him, but we can most likely talk more on this after our proceedings with the Pekan member of parliament.

“It also depends on the new evidence we get along the way, when we reopen the case, where we will hear from new and old witnesses,” he told the New Straits Times.

The two previous PAC chairmen, Datuk Hasan Arifin, who oversaw the proceedings before the report was tabled in Parliament on April 7, 2016, as well as his predecessor, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, will also be called up to shed light on contentious matters.

Kiandee said PAC, which would hold its first sitting on the case on Oct 9, would also look into transactions involving the company’s Air Itam land in Penang, which happened despite a freeze imposed by the state government.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had said all 94.7ha of the land, had been surreptitiously sold to Cayman Islands-based Silk Road Southeast Asia Real Estate Ltd for 4.25 billion yuan (RM2.7 billion) on Aug 24 last year, had netted a profit of RM1.32 billion based on the original RM1.38 billion purchase price.

The 10 terms of reference first lists the United States Department of Justice’s report on 1MDB, followed by the Air Itam land, as well as 1MDB monies in Switzerland and Singapore.

The subsequent terms refer to, among others, the Finance Ministry’s bail out of 1MDB, and the company’s rationalisation plan.

The committee is planning to hear insights from the authors of the newly-published books, The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB; as well as Billion Dollar Whale.

Kiandee told the NST that 18 witnesses had been lined up for the upcoming proceedings.

Representatives of  PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a 1MDB auditor that reported the company’s non-compliance with basic corporate governance or management principles, will be called up to testify on Oct 9.

Former auditor-general Tan Sri Ambrin Buang is scheduled to appear on Oct 29.

“We will relook at this holistically… on what is lacking, what needs to be adjusted, witnesses that need to be called in and those we need to recall, including the Pekan MP and Jho Low (fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho), if the police can get hold of him. He is new in the list of witnesses,” he said.

‘PAC won’t be prejudiced in 1MDB investigations’

Question: Your vision and mission as the new Public Accounts Committee chairman?

Answer: During our first meeting, I made it clear that all committee members are here as members of parliament, not party representatives. We will then be more detailed and clear as there are no thoughts of revenge or wanting to protect anyone. Our mind is clear in that we are here to carry out proceedings and to investigate the country’s finances. Just like previous chairmen, I want to see PAC become a transparent body under Parliament. That is why I am proposing that we make our proceedings public. However, certain laws need to be looked into and amended to suit current times. I believe the people want to know what PAC is doing, not only on 1Malaysia Development Bhd, although it’s clear that 1MDB is a topic of public interest.

Q: It seems that you have a lot on your plate. How many times has the committee met?

A: PAC has met 11 times since the new members were appointed on Aug 7. The sessions include meetings, briefings and proceedings. We have been very active in carrying out our duties.

Q: There have been a lot of inconsistencies throughout the years on 1MDB and its subsidiaries, as well as companies such as Good Star Ltd. What can we expect from PAC’s handling of the 1MDB case?

A: We will relook at the case as a whole — on what is lacking, what needs to be adjusted, witnesses that needs to called or recalled. There is no timeline when it comes to PAC investigations, so we will take our time to carry out probes into 1MDB in detail. Right now, there is an issue as to whether our investigations will be considered sub judice. We have checked with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (A-GC) and it will guide us. There are A-GC representatives in our committee and they will inform us on what can or cannot be touched on during proceedings. The 1MDB audit report by the National Audit Department is also no longer classified under the Official Secrets Act. Hence, once we are done with our probe, the report will first be presented to Parliament. It will decide whether to publish it.

Q: A little brief on PAC’s meeting with the National Audit Department on Aug 30 and Sept 4?

A: Majority of PAC members are new, including me. Kota Baru MP Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan and Jasin MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Hamzah are the only ones from the (old committee). The briefing was part of an introduction for PAC members on what the department has done on 1MDB.

Q: What is the difference between what you were previously informed on 1MDB compared with the latest briefing by the Audit Department?

A: It was definitely more detailed. As a PAC member, I take it as it is. It is part of the bigger picture because in our minds, we want to investigate and want to know what happened. We asked a lot of questions to the department about the processes, management, operations and external factors, including things that we have not heard before. I have also read the book Billion Dollar Whale. It is a good read and it is related to what is being investigated by PAC. Meanwhile, the audit report is about the internal accounts and technical side of things.

Q: Do you think reading the book and other various sources on 1MDB would affect your assessment?

A: PAC can read everything, but I assure you that it will not affect, influence or lead to any prejudices in our investigations. PAC is just like the courts — we focus on what is in front of us, the evidence and statements. The books and stories may give us a broader explanation.

Q: You have been Beluran MP for four terms under Barisan Nasional. How has it been for you since becoming an opposition MP?

A: My constituency is having a hard time understanding that we are no longer under the ruling government, so they are still demanding for things that we used to provide, such as transportation and paying their electric and water bills. Some are slowly accepting it, but it is hard as they have been pampered for 18 years. Although the new government has provided about RM100,000 in funds for rural areas under opposition MPs, it is not enough. Beluran is half the size of Selangor, with approximately 23,000 people. Logistics is a major issue for us. Basic facilities, education and infrastructure are much needed. However, I would like to thank the government for providing funds for opposition parliamentarians.