1MDB probe: No plans to quiz PM Najib, says Public Accounts Committee

Panel also not questioning businessman Low Taek Jho; focus on governance

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is investigating debt-laden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), sees no need to question Prime Minister Najib Razak for now.

"We don't see the need at the moment," Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, chairman of the bipartisan parliamentary panel, told a packed press conference yesterday. Datuk Seri Najib is also Finance Minister and chief adviser of 1MDB, which is wholly owned by the Finance Ministry.

Mr Nur Jazlan also said his committee would not be questioning businessman Low Taek Jho but would focus instead on the state investor's governance by calling up its past and present chief executives, board members and audit firms.

1MDB has had three different auditors since it was set up in 2009.  In February last year, it changed its auditor from KPMG to Deloitte Malaysia after failing to file its annual returns with the Companies Commission of Malaysia by September 2013. 1MDB has been mired in controversy since it was revealed that it had racked up RM42 billion (S$15.6 billion) in debt, over a third of which is guaranteed by taxpayers. A close associate of Mr Najib's has been accused of siphoning off close to RM4 billion from 1MDB. 

Finance Ministry secretary-general Irwan Serigar Abdullah, who is on 1MDB's advisory board, and Economic Planning Unit (EPU) director-general Rahamat Bivi Yusoff gave their testimonies yesterday. Mr Nur  Jazlan declined to reveal what was discussed, saying that the two men talked about their roles and functions in 1MDB. The EPU coordinates the Tun Razak Exchange and Bandar Malaysia developments.

Mr Nur Jazlan explained that the fact-finding mission will be conducted step by step to determine which government ministry, department or agency should be held accountable for 1MDB's burgeoning debt.  "We are looking at it from a framework of governance first, then management, auditors and board of directors. After that, if there are any leads, issues or individuals that we need to follow up on, we will address them then."

In March, Auditor-General Ambrin Buang was instructed to investigate 1MDB over reports of abuse of public funds and its inability to repay debts despite claiming RM51 billion in assets. The National Audit Department is expected to present its interim report to the PAC by the end of June. 

"Their (National Audit Department) scope is purely financial. They look at the financial management of 1MDB and also the governance part. We look at the political aspect as well as an extension to what they are looking at. So our scope is much bigger in that sense," said Mr Nur Jazlan.

He denied any conflict of interest even though he and many PAC members are from the ruling Barisan Nasional. It is common parliamentary practice for the PAC to be led by opposition MPs.

asruls@sph.com.sg