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I objected, but solar project still approved by Najib, Treasury official tells Rosmah trial

February 21, 2020

Treasury deputy secretary-general Othman Semail says former prime minister Najib Razak was the decision-maker on the solar project. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A finance ministry official told Rosmah Mansor’s corruption trial today that despite his objections to the RM1.25 billion solar project for Sarawak schools, the government awarded the project to Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Treasury deputy secretary-general Othman Semail said this when questioned by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib over the government letters he wrote to then prime minister-cum-finance minister Najib Razak to voice his views against the solar project.

“The funds allocated to the education ministry were not enough to implement a large scale project, and also there was no complaint about the diesel genset project.

“Ministry officials can only advise the finance minister,” he said, adding that Najib was the “decision-maker” on the solar project.

Former education minister Mahdzir Khalid had said previously that Najib asked him to approve the RM1.25 billion project to Jepak Holdings.

To questions by Rosmah’s lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader over his “criticism” that the solar project did not follow the government’s guidelines from the time it was proposed until Jepak was awarded the project, Othman told the court he did not criticise the project but only gave his views.

Akberdin then commented that Othman, as a senior civil servant, had used “strong words” in his witness statement and also in the ministry’s documents.

Othman also told the court he was not sure what was the status of the solar project today or whether the contract with Jepak had been terminated.

“This issue was outside of my knowledge,” he said, in responding to questions as to whether he knew that the government and Jepak Holdings were involved in a legal battle over the solar project.

Previously, former education ministry secretary-general Madinah Mohamad told the court that the solar project was not suitable for some schools in Sarawak as they were surrounded by big trees and located in very remote areas.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan on March 9.

Rosmah is charged with three counts of corruption for allegedly soliciting RM187.5 million from Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin as an inducement to help the company secure the Hybrid Photovoltaic Solar System Integrated Project and the Maintenance and Operation of Genset/Diesel for 369 rural schools in Sarawak, worth a total of RM1.25 billion through direct negotiations with the education ministry.

She is also accused of receiving bribes amounting to RM6.5 million from Saidi between 2016 and 2017.

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