KUALA LUMPUR - Datuk Seri Najib Razak had the power to veto ministerial-level decisions, a former Education Ministry secretary-general told the High Court here during Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor's corruption trial.
Tan Sri Dr Madinah Mohamad said Najib, who was also then finance minister, could still override her even if she exercised her discretion.
Madinah, who was under cross-examination by defence counsel Datuk Akberdin Abdul Kader, said this when explaining why Jepak Holdings' solar hybrid project was approved despite not meeting government guidelines.
"During direct negotiations, the guidelines should be followed but there exist situations where overriding decisions can be made by the Finance Minister under certain circumstances," she said.
Akberdin was questioning Madinah on why she signed a letter to ask the Finance Ministry to issue a Letter of Award (LOA) to grant Jepak Holdings the contract for the solar hybrid project.
The court had earlier heard that Madinah signed the LOA request letter on the last day of her service at the Education Ministry.
Madinah told the court that she did not have the power to disobey Najib's notes on a letter by Jepak Holdings on Nov 23, 2015 addressed to then education minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid to "agreed to implement".
Akberdin: You have the authority to disregard the orders?
Akberdin: Then, why are you making the U-turn today (in the witness statement)? "You complain about Jepak Holdings but here (in a memo written by Madinah) you supported the project?
Madinah: Back then as I have explained, I received instructions from Mahdzir to implement Najib's order so I forwarded the application to the Finance Ministry. The final decision then lies with the Finance Ministry and not the Education Ministry.
Akberdin then challenged Madinah on the contradiction between her witness statement and her actions.
Akberdin pointed out that Madinah, in her written statement, had said the diesel genset system was effective in providing electricity to the 369 rural schools in Sarawak that was earmarked for the solar hybrid project.
However, he said Madinah had on June 16, 2016 written a letter addressed to Mahdzir saying that the solar hybrid system was a better alternative.
Akberdin: Do you agree that today you said that the diesel genset is a better system but before you supported the solar hybrid system? Isn't that a contradiction?
Madinah: I disagree.
Akberdin: I am showing you that there is a contradiction. Before you supported solar hybrid system and now you support diesel genset.
"Based on that point there seems to be a contradiction," Madinah said before her explanation was cut off by Akberdin.
Akberdin then accused Madinah as having a vested interest in seeing the solar hybrid proposal being approved.
"You have vested interest that's why you absolutely (mati-matian) wanted the project to go through," said Akberdin, to which she disagreed.
He singled out a statement she made in court which said: "I informed the Finance Ministry that the implementation of this project was under Najib's orders and not from the Education Ministry's initiative."
Akberdin said the statement was made in bad faith, adding that Madinah placed the blame on Najib to mask her own shortcomings in performing her duties.
"You pin everything on the prime minister. When you are pushed into a corner, you find a scapegoat and push the blame on others," he said.
To this, Madinah disagreed.
Akberdin claimed that Madinah failed to fulfil her duties by not performing due diligence on Jepak Holdings' proposal, a claim she denied.
He added that Madinah did not brief Najib on the feasibility of the solar hybrid project, despite claiming in her witness statement that she did not see any tangible or intangible benefits of the project.
Akberdin: As an officer with the Education Ministry, did you take the initiative to write directly to the prime minister and explain to him that the project is not viable?
Madinah said that she instead told Najib verbally during a meeting at Parliament that the Education Ministry lacked the allocation to implement the project.
The trial before High Court judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan continues today.