Former auditor-general: I did not destroy original 1MDB audit report

(The Star) – Former auditor-general Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad told the High Court that she decided not to destroy the original audit report on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) when she took over the top position in the National Audit Department (NAD) in 2017.

After taking over the role from her predecessor Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, Madinah said she was informed by audit director Datuk Nor Salwani Muhammad that there were two versions of the 1MDB audit report.

“I was given the original version by Nor Salwani who said (it) was the only original version she had kept.

“There were 10 copies that were printed originally and four of them that were not given out were ordered by Ambrin to be destroyed from NAD’s safekeeping.

“The remaining six copies were given to a list of NAD’s recipients,” she said.

The witness, who was the auditor-general from Feb 20, 2017 to Feb 22, 2019, was reading her witness statement during the 1MDB audit tampering trial involving former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy here on Wednesday (Dec 22).

Madinah, 65, said Nor Salwani had kept the original audit report for the purpose of getting instructions from the new auditor-general (Madinah) on whether the document should be destroyed or otherwise.

“I then decided not to destroy the report as it was a document that contained material information and evidence on 1MDB,” she said.

In the meeting with Nor Salwani, Madinah said she was informed that the 1MDB audit report was printed twice.

The first print was in 2016 but after this was done, the content in the report was changed to omit several paragraphs and it was reprinted for the second time on March 2, 2016.

The two issues omitted from the second version were: an audit finding on 1MDB’s audited financial statement in 2014; and the presence of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, in a special meeting with the 1MDB board of directors.

Madinah also told the court it was during this time that the 1MDB audit report was classified as a secret under the Official Secrets Act 1972.

“Therefore, I couldn’t reveal the existence of two versions of the 1MDB audit report to anybody.

“However, on May 15, 2018, I had reclassified the 1MDB audit report to be a public document following a media statement from the prime minister on May 14, 2018, who ordered the reclassification of the document,” she added.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister then following Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the 14th General Election that year.

Madinah said on Aug 30, 2018, she revealed the existence of the two versions of the audit report, with several paragraphs omitted and amended, to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

After the revelation to the PAC, Madinah said she was instructed by the Prime Minister’s Department in November 2018 to table the same matter at a Cabinet meeting on Nov 23.

“The Cabinet instructed me to issue a media statement regarding the matter in my capacity as the auditor-general,” Madinah added.

Najib, 68, is accused of abusing his position to order amendments to the 1MDB final audit report to avoid any action being taken against him while Arul Kanda, 45, is accused of abetting Najib in making the amendments to the report.

Both men were charged under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, which provides a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

The hearing resumes before Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan on Wednesday afternoon.