KUALA LUMPUR: It is Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor who is sitting in the dock accused of corruption but it was former Education Ministry secretary general Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad who was left trying to ward off numerous accusations from the witness stand today.
The 63-year-old was bombarded with a series of hard hitting questions by Rosmah's lawyer, Datuk Akberdin Abdul Kader, who among other things accused Madinah of being negligent in carrying out her duties, leading to a RM1.25 billion solar hybrid project being awarded to a less than competent company where all government procedures were ignored.
Madinah was also accused of giving inconsistent and contradictory statements in court and having vested interest in the project until the day she retired from the post in September 2016.
Akberdin did not mince his words when he accused Madinah of finding a scapegoat to blame now that she found herself in a corner having to testify as a witness in the case, where Rosmah is accused of soliciting kickbacks from the company to the tune of RM187.5 million and receiving RM6.5 million in 2016 and 2017.
The senior counsel immediately started tearing into Madinah's testimony during cross-examination today by questioning why she failed to follow procedures when dealing with the application by Jepak Holding Sdn Bhd to undertake the solar hybrid project for 369 rural schools in Sarawak.
Madinah explained that she was forced to follow a directive issued by then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak through two minutes in 2015 and 2016.
She said Najib had signed off the minutes by making a notation which read 'sila laksanakan' (please implement) and this left her with no alternatives but to follow through with the directive.
Akberdin: You have been a senior government servant for many years, with your last posting at the Education Ministry as a gatekeeper. Yet this contract was awarded to Jepak Holdings even though there was no value management and no price negotiation ever done.
Akberdin: So there was a clear breach of procedures here.
Akberdin: You failed in your duties because you did not follow the procedures.
Madinah: I disagree because there were reasons behind it.
Akberdin: You were doubtful that Jepak Holdings will be able to undertake the project.
Akberdin: There was no pressing need for the project.
Akberdin: Despite all this, the Education Ministry still went ahead with the project. Why didn't you reject it?
Madinah: I was unable to reject it.
Akberdin: The PM (prime minister) has the authority to give instructions like what was minuted but you also have the authority not to obey if it is against the guidelines.
Akberdin: Then why are you complaining now?
Madinah: At that time I received orders from the Education Minister to carry out Najib's instructions. Moreover the ultimate power to decide on the project is in the hands of the Finance Ministry.
Akberdin: The PM's instructions are not cast in stone. You are not bound to follow if it is contrary to procedures. You can still ignore.
Madinah: The minutes by the PM were very clear...he wrote 'sila laksanakan'. It is a directive at large.
Akberdin however continued to badger Madinah that she was not obliged to do what was instructed if it contravened procedures and she finally relented and agreed.
Madinah, who is the sixth prosecution witness, also agreed that she did not write to Najib to inform him that the solar hybrid programme was not a viable project.
Akberdin then accused her of having a vested interest in the project after showing her a document where she had endorsed the issuance of an acceptance letter for the project on the days leading to her retirement as the Education secretary general on Sept 2, 2016.
It was previously reported that Madinah was subsequently appointed by Najib as the Auditor General in February 2017 replacing Tan Sri Ambrin Buang.
Madinah's appointment then had created an uproar as her husband - who is an Umno division chief - had once declared that he would die for Najib.
She was subsequently replaced by Datuk Nik Azman Nik Abdul Majid in March last year.
The trial before High Court Judge Mohamad Zaini Mazlan continues.