Indonesia's Fight Against Corruption Gaining Steam But Far From Won

Djoko Susilo, the former chief of the National Police's Traffic Corps, arrives for his trial. He faces graft and money laundering charges. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

Djoko Susilo, the former chief of the National Police's Traffic Corps, arrives for his trial. He faces graft and money laundering charges. (JG Photo/Safir Makki) Djoko Susilo, the former chief of the National Police's Traffic Corps, arrives for his trial. He faces graft and money laundering charges. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

It has, by many measures, been a banner year for Indonesia’s antigraft institution, with the fall of many high-profile individuals this year linked to corruption cases worth hundreds of billions of rupiah.

Under the leadership of chairman Abraham Samad and his deputies Adnan Pandu Praja, Bambang Widjojanto, Zulkarnain and Busyro Muqoddas, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has managed to work hand-in-hand in uncovering a wide range of high-value corruption cases.

The 2012 KPK law stipulates a collegial leadership, wherein every decision taken by the antigraft body is to be unanimously agreed on by the five leaders beforehand. Despite protests against the policy by several entities, KPK executives have well proved they were moving in the same direction in the fight against deep-seated corruption in the nation.

Big names

Ade Irawan, a researcher from Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), told Jakarta Globe that the KPK can expect to face many challenges in the future.

“As an organization that gets a lot of exposure, the public has big expectations for the KPK; the number of public reports [on corruption] has even increased. The challenge for the agency is knowing how to pick and choose. Hundreds of reports are made, but KPK’s resources are limited,” he said.

“The KPK has done well this year. They weren’t reluctant when dealing with powerful, high-profile figures. With high expectations, the KPK needs to explain to the public articulately which cases it needed to solve and why,” he said.

The KPK this year arrested some of its most high-profile suspects to date, including former Youth and Sports Minister Andi Alfian Mallarangeng for his alleged involvement in the construction of the Hambalang sports center, and Constitutional Court chief Akil Mochtar in October.

Officials charged Akil with allegedly accepting bribes to fix the court’s ruling on a regional election dispute in Lebak, Banten, and Gunung Mas, Central Kalimantan.

Catching him red-handed in his home, investigators confiscated up to Rp 3 billion ($246,000) in cash suspected to be bribes, in addition to confiscating a white Toyota Fortuner car.

He was dismissed from his post at the Constitutional Court shortly after.

Akil’s arrest came only less than three months after the KPK arrested another high-ranking official, chief of upstream oil and gas regulator SKKMigas Rudi Rubiandini over allegations of receiving more than $600,000 in bribes from an oil company seeking to win a tender with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.

The case has seen other high-ranking officials questioned by the KPK, including Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik.

Getting tough on political parties

This year’s cases build on other big ones of the past few years. In 2010, the KPK named a total of 26 suspects — who were lawmakers in the House of Representatives from 1999-2004 — in a bribery scandal to ensure victory for Miranda Swaray Goeltom as senior deputy governor of Bank Indonesia.

Roughly a month after arresting then president of the Prosperous Justice Party Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq for his involvement in the beef import quota scandal, the KPK named then Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum in a case in the construction of the Hambalang sports center.

The KPK also named Mallarangeng, who was former secretary of the Democratic Party, a suspect in the same case in Dec. 2012 and subsequently arrested him in October this year.

While the KPK has yet to arrest Anas, Luthfi’s case was seen moving at a faster pace, with the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court on Dec. 9 sentencing him to 16 years in prison and ordering him to pay Rp 1 billion in fines or serve an additional one year in prison for attempting to corrupt Indonesia’s beef-import quota.

Despite being less than the 18 years in prison and Rp 1.5 billion in fines sought by prosecutors, the sentence was received as a largely strong stance against the foul practice by observers and the public.

Meanwhile, Luthfi’s close aide, Ahmad Fathanah, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay Rp 1.3 billion worth of fines in the same case.

Separately, the case of Akil Mochtar, a member of the Golkar Party, has also implicated Banten Governor and former treasurer of the Golkar Party Atut Chosiyah, who was arrested by KPK officials on Dec. 20 for her alleged involvement in paying Rp 1 billion worth of bribes to Akil in the Lebak district election dispute.

Atut was also charged with corruption in the procurement of health equipment in the South Tangerang district of Banten.

The Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) reportedly uncovered billions of rupiah in inflated or missing funds at the Banten Health Agency and Banten General Affairs Bureau in an independent investigation. The budgets of three projects ballooned by Rp 1.21 billion in 2012 before their approval, the agency said.

The BPK also found another Rp 1.13 billion worth of undocumented funds in the same year.

Another party with an official implicated in graft cases is the People’s Conscience Party, whose election campaign team (Bapilu) chairman Bambang W. Soeharto has been questioned by the KPK after his subordinate Lusita Ani Razak was caught while conducting a bribery transaction with Subri, the head of the prosecutors’ office in the Central Lombok subdistrict of Praya.

Cicak vs. Buaya

Among its biggest suspects to date was the powerful Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo, became a testament to the staying power of the tiny cicak (gecko) in the world of the buaya (crocodile).

The KPK’s case against the two-star police general was indicative of its fight against graft in 2013. The agency overcame a tense standoff with police, indicting Djoko on both corruption and money laundering charges over his involvement in tainted government contracts while running the traffic police.

The probe quickly widened as investigators uncovered Djoko’s significant wealth, much of it hidden in assets purchased with corruption funds and listed in someone else’s name. The KPK discovered, in total, some Rp 200 billion in graft-tainted assets belonging to Djoko, making him the richest corruption suspect convicted in agency history.

Djoko was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to return much of his stolen wealth in a verdict that was widely heralded as a landmark moment in the nation’s fight against corruption. When he appealed the verdict, asking for $18 million back from the state and a sentence reduction, the Jakarta High Court slammed Djoko with an additional eight years in prison and increased the fines to Rp 32 billion.

Additionally, the court also moved to deprive Djoko of his political rights, preventing him both from voting and running in future political events.

The high-profile arrests and high-value cases uncovered by the KPK this year has inspired praise from both the public and government officials.

In his Twitter account over the weekend, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan expressed his appreciation to the institution’s performance.

“I salute the KPK’s work. Despite having a limited number of investigators, they have managed to uncover many cases of corruption this year,” Gita tweeted on Saturday, adding that the series of arrests of corruptors this year was an important achievement in Indonesia’s law-enforcement efforts.

“[Let’s] continue to support the KPK in the fight against corruption. Don’t let anyone weaken the KPK. Bravo KPK!” he said.

Work remains

The KPK’s decisions in the string of graft cases this year was proof that Indonesia was getting serious about curbing corruption in a place routinely ranked as one of the most corrupt on earth, activists and watchdog grounds said. It was a sign of hope that future cases against powerful individuals, would move forward undeterred.

But despite the accolades and press-grabbing cases, Indonesia’s corruption eradication efforts did little to impact the public’s perception of the level of graft in the nation, Transparency International Indonesia argued. In fact, if anything, the nation’s fights against graft stagnated in 2013, program director Ibrahim Fahmi Zuhdi Badoh said.

“Corruption eradication this year stagnated compared to last year,” he said. “The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is formed by the public’s opinion. They saw many scandals still happening in the country [in 2013].”

Transparency International (TI) annually ranks countries based on the perceived level of corruption taking place. The methodology is not without its faults, for example organizations with greater exposure to the public — like the police — score worse on the survey than people in local politics, despite evidence of widespread corruption among district-level administrations.

Indonesia ranked 114 out of 177 countries in 2013, climbing four spots toward greater transparency. Or at least it looked that way at first glance. In reality, the TI report found little changed in Indonesia. Its score, at 32, remained the same as in 2013. So, the change in ranking had more to do with the situation in other countries, Thailand, Moldova and Argentina among the list, than Indonesia’s own realities.

The central government’s ineffective measures to curb corruption, from its lack of an enforced sunshine law to little restrictions on conflicts of interest regarding companies owned by public officials being awarded government contracts, means the perception on the streets is that Indonesia is as corrupt as ever.

If anything, a string of high-profile busts by the KPK, including the former head of SKKMigas and the former chief justice of the Constitutional Court, just showed the public just how bad the situation was.

With the legislative election coming up, the situation is likely to get worse, Ibrahim said.

“The big threat is in the campaign funds and also challenges on how to minimize corruption in the elections done by either political parties or party members themselves,” he said. “[They might be] launching popular programs for their own interests.”

Chairman of the Regional Representatives Council Irman Gusman echoed Ibrahim’s statements.

“The KPK’s performance is good, with two big corruption case being uncovered every month on average. There are also cases of corruption unveiled by the police and the judiciary institution. If we were to calculate this, we can conclude that not a day goes by in Indonesia without corruption,” he said, a quoted by Surabaya Post.

Data from the KPK’s performance report showed that within the period of 2004-13, the KPK has uncovered 267 cases of corruption.

Irman emphasized that despite the many cases revealed, data from the Home Affairs Ministry shows that as of June 2013, there were 21 governors, seven deputy governors, 156 district chiefs, 46 deputy district chiefs, 41 mayors and 20 deputy mayors implicated in different cases, most of which are corruption.

“In the year 2014, the KPK will have to work harder in carrying out its tasks,” he said.

Another senior political expert Arbi Sanit also emphasized that much work remains for the KPK in the coming year.

“The public has been quite happy with the KPK’s work, but they’re yet to be satisfied as more work is still needed,” he said. “At the same time, it is not enough to rely on the KPK’s works. The public must compliment and support the KPK.”

Other cases

Indonesia Corruption Watch struck a less pessimistic tone, applauding the KPK for their work combatting political corruption in 2013, but chastising the National Police and the Attorney Generals’ Office for their lack of commitment.

“In the future the three institutions must work together to support corruption eradication,” Ade Irawan, a researcher at ICW, said. “The coordination of these three institutions is really important.”

Despite its work, however, several high-profile cases still loom with no foreseeable end in sight. Investigations into the Hambalang sports center and the Bank Century bailout remain open.

The antigraft body’s recent track record of charging powerful figures during its investigations is a good sign, but the KPK still has a lot of work to do to prove who is at the top of both cases, Ade said.

“In the political context, there is progress,” he said. “It’s not just the small cases now, but cases that involve people with a lot of power in the country or regions.”

KPK spokesman Johan Budi said the commission was committed to bringing both cases to a close.

“As an institution, our target is to finish all the cases we handle once they have been escalated to an investigation,” he said. “Whatever the cases are, it could be Hambalang, Bank Century or other cases.”

The KPK is not focused on just cases with the potential for grabbing big names or generating positive press coverage, Johan said.

The commission processed more cases in 2013 than last year, charging several powerful people in the process.

It is not about the arrests, but their impact, Johan said.

“In 2013 there were many cases handled by the KPK where we caught people red-handed or cases related with [corrupted] procurements,” he said. “[But] it’s not about who we arrested, but how to make sure our corruption eradication efforts have a deterrent effect as well.”

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