I don’t agree with word ‘tampering’, former auditor-general tells court

Former auditor-general Ambrin Buang says he had authorised amendments to the 1MDB final audit report ‘with justifications’.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former auditor-general Ambrin Buang told the High Court today he was taken aback when his successor went public that the 1MDB audit final report had been
“tampered with”.

“I do not agree with the word ‘tampering’,” he said when testifying in the trial of former prime minister Najib Razak, who is alleged to have abused his position in causing amendments to the final audit report.

Ambrin said he was unhappy that his successor, Madinah Mohamad, had made a statement in late 2018 that the National Audit Department’s report on the sovereign fund had been “tampered with”.

“I authorised the amendments to the February 2016 report with justifications provided. We agree to amend (the final report) after studying the justifications,” he said when questioned by Najib’s lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, about his testimony before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the same year.

Asked if he was threatened with a “gun to his head”, Ambrin said there was no such thing.

He said he told the PAC members he was unhappy about the tampering claim as it was a serious allegation and raised questions about his integrity.

Ambrin also said Madinah never called him before making the claim and added that he would have explained to her if she had called.

“One of her officers contacted me later and asked if I was willing to explain to the PAC, which I agreed to,” he said.

Madinah, who succeeded Ambrin as auditor-general in 2017 and held the position until February last year, is expected to testify as a witness later in the trial.

Ambrin also said that Najib’s then principal private secretary, Mohd Shukry Salleh, asked for a copy of the department’s 1MDB report, and if there were requests to make amendments, he had the right to decide.

“In this case, the Feb 24, 2016 PAC meeting was an important one, in the sense the government or PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) suggested to amend certain things,” he said, before he was cut off by Shafee.

Ad hoc prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram said Shafee should let Ambrin finish his sentence.

Trial judge Mohamad Zaini Mazlan said Ambrin could continue what he wanted to tell the court.

“In short, from the Feb 24 meeting, we had to do abnormal things, that was beyond normal practice.

“The Feb 2016 report had been finalised and was ready for PAC, and you tell me that I cannot table it and ask for amendments to be made to avoid ‘spin’,” he said, adding that “we never reopen our final report”.

Ambrin said the government auditors were not happy because former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy, who is charged with abetting Najib, was allowed to sit in the meeting and review their report “paragraph by paragraph”.

“I was told to keep my opinion to myself and write a book about it. How can I be happy?” he said.

Najib faces one charge of abusing his position to obtain immunity from legal action and causing amendments to the final 1MDB audit report before it was tabled to the PAC.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.