With poverty rates still high across the nation, a budget analysis and advocacy group has reported that government officials in one of the country’s least-developed regions had been embezzling funds intended for the counstruction of much-needed infrastructure to help lift the area out of poverty.
The Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) announced on Sunday that the West Papuan administration had allegedly committed the most corruption of public facility budgets among five provinces.
Fitra said corruption in those provinces have resulted in the state losing more than Rp 726 billion ($73 million).
“The budget for public facilities were allocated for the development of school buildings, community health centers, bridges, hospitals and irrigations,” Maulana, Fitra’s advocacy coordinator told reporters in Jakarta on Sunday.
He said West Papua topped the list of graft-ridden provinces, with 10 cases worth a combined total of Rp 86.8 billion. In East Kalimantan about Rp 29.6 billion in corruption was committed, while it was around Rp 10.8 billion in South Kalimantan, Rp 7.8 billion in Aceh and Rp 5.8 billion in North Maluku.
Fitra also identified the North Sumatran city of Tebing Tinggi as the most corrupt with around Rp 4.9 billion having been embezzled, while the figures were Rp 2.4 billion for Ambon (Maluku), Rp 2.2 billion for Denpasar (Bali), Rp 2.1 billion for Bukittinggi (West Sumatra) and Rp 2.1 billion for Prabumulih (South Sumatra).
On a district level, Fitra identified Nduga (Papua) as the most corrupt with around Rp 89.5 billion stolen. That was followed by Sula Islands (North Maluku) with Rp 55 billion; Wajo (South Sulawesi) with Rp 25.5 billion; Berau (East Kalimantan) with Rp 18.7 billion; and Kapuas (Central Kalimantan) with Rp 15.9 billion.
Maulana said the modus for corrupting the budget is conducted in various ways, such as fictitious procurement projects, the marking up of procurement budgets, and by contractors who do not complete projects.
Maulana said provincial administrations often do not follow proper procedure when selecting contractors for the projects. Provincial administrations also often prioritized spending budgets without considering the quality of the chosen contractors on the procurement of goods and service projects.
“This shows inconsistencies in the implementation of tenders for the procurement of goods and services by provincial administrations,” Maulana said.
His organization has called on the Finance Ministry to limit the amount of cash transferred to the regions intended for financing the development of public facilities, especially to regions that have been proven to be prone to corruption.
Fitra made its remarks based on the findings announced by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) and its own investigation of almost 240 districts and cities across the country.
Maulana said that in the second half of the BPK’s 2012 report, it announced that it had found more than 1,000 cases that resulted in losses to the state of Rp 726.4 billion. He said Fitra called on the regional governments to dismiss officials in charge of these procurement projects and also those in charge of selecting unqualified contractors.
BPK has announced that it will soon conduct an audit on the special autonomy funds channeled to Indonesia’s two easternmost provinces, Papua and West Papua.
The central government has disbursed more than Rp 40 trillion since the two provinces were granted special autonomy status in 2001, but since its integration into Indonesia 50 years ago both remain among the poorest and most underdeveloped regions in the country, fueling social unrest and residents’ calls for secession.
“We will conduct [the audit] this year,” BPK chief Hadi Purnomo said during a hearing conducted by the Regional Representatives Council late in April.
According to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), both provinces have high rates of unemployment with a combined total of 77,000 people of working age currently without work.
Poverty is also common, the latest BPS figures show, with 30 percent of people in resource-rich Papua and 27 percent in West Papua, which is also rich in natural gas and currently enjoying a tourism boom, living below the poverty line.
During a recent meeting with Papua Governor Lukas Enembe, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he was considering providing Papua with even greater autonomy, calling it a solution for the unique problems facing the province.
Yudhoyono said the so-called “Special Autonomy Plus” would be implemented in Papua by August.
Priyo Budi Santoso, a deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, said the government must first discuss the plan with legislators, adding that an amendment to the Special Autonomy Law would be needed before the proposal could be formally implemented.
Last year, it was reported that Indonesia had lost as much as Rp 2.13 trillion to corruption in 2011, with embezzlement having accounted for most of the losses.