KUALA LUMPUR (March 31): Former auditor-general (AG) Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad told the High Court that her predecessor Tan Sri Ambrin Buang was "reluctant" to share his opinions of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report with her.
Madinah, 66, said she did inquire about the audit report in order to glean her predecessor's opinion, however he had remained tight-lipped and instead asked her to "read the report herself".
"We had no handing over ceremony. [During a chat with him,] I wanted to hear if he had some mandate (amanat), orders (pesanan) or areas of interest [which] he couldn't finish [that] he wanted me to complete and one of the hottest topics was 1MDB.
"I wanted to understand through him what his final [opinion was.] What did he discover? What did he glean from it?" she said.
Madinah, the prosecution's 12th witness, said this during cross-examination by lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah in the ongoing 1MDB audit tampering trial involving former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and former 1MDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
Madinah, who served as the AG till February 2019, said she couldn't recall the exact timing of the meeting with Ambrin and it was around the time of her appointment as AG in February 2017.
Madinah said that as the incoming AG, she was asked from time to time about 1MDB as it was a "hot topic", so she sought Ambrin's opinion as he was the AG when the audit report was conducted.
"So it's because it was something [of] a hot topic [people] were skirting around and [the AG's office] conducted an audit on 1MDB, [questions were posed to me from time to time:] What happened? What did you discover," she said.
She said she also inquired about the former premier's involvement in the matter, but Ambrin had said that it could not be verified.
"He (Ambrin) was reluctant to share... [he said you can] read it yourself, we cannot verify [Najib's involvement]. [So] I understood he was not prepared to share more," Madinah said, adding that government officials at this time had to "tread lightly" on any issues pertaining to 1MDB.
Shafee, however, maintained that Madinah was not hindered from reading the audit report. "He didn't say I'm not going to share with you," said the senior lawyer.
At the time of the meeting with Ambrin, Madinah said she was unaware of the existence of two versions of the audit reports.
On Wednesday, Madinah testified that she was "shocked" to find out about the two versions of the audit report.
Shortly after assuming her post, in March 2017, she was informed briefly by then 1MDB audit team coordinator Datuk Nor Salwani Muhammad before a meeting of the two reports. Despite orders to destroy the "original copy", Salwani had kept a copy.
Madinah had described the first as the "original copy" and the "second one" as the amended copy.
The two issues that were 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 1MDB board of directors.
Madinah added that even after finding out about the two versions of the report, she did not confront Ambrin about it as it could have been a very "unpleasant" exchange.
"[I knew if I were to] confront Ambrin [about] what happened, [there] will most likely be [an] unpleasant [exchange].
"Even if I were to confront him and ask him why he did it, I wasn't sure I would get the answers that are necessary," she said.
She, however, agreed with Shafee that she had no way of knowing if Ambrin would have cooperated should she have had the conversation.
She also denied that she didn't bring up the discrepancies in the audit report with Najib to protect her tenure as the nation's AG.
In the trial, Najib is charged with abuse of power as a public officer in his capacity as prime minister and finance minister in altering the 1MDB audit report which was to be tabled to the PAC in 2018. This was so that no action could be taken against him by Parliament.
Meanwhile, Arul Kanda is charged with abetting Najib.
The trial continues on Friday before Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan.