Bali is a great destination for a vacation – which is what Jakarta city councilors are accused of engaging in while ostensibly on a 'study trip' there. (Antara Photo/Fikri Yusuf)

Amid Disaster of a Junket to Bali, Jakarta Councilors Bemoan Lack of Spending Money


SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

Jakarta. City councilors from Jakarta have come under fire over the cost of their purported “study trip” to Bali, and their only response has been to complain that they don’t get enough money to buy souvenirs.

A group of 32 councilors and eight of their staff left Jakarta on a three-day trip to Bali on Wednesday, at a total cost to taxpayers of Rp 341 million ($23,800). Their agenda there included a trip to the island’s public works office – “to ask how they keep the roads so smooth,” according to one councilor – as well as a visit to the site of reclamation activities in Benoa Bay.

The main program on their itinerary, though, was a meeting with their counterparts at the Bali provincial legislature, which failed to take place. The Jakarta officials showed up at the council building on Thursday, only to be told that the very people they expected to meet had themselves embarked on a study trip to Yogyakarta.

The Jakarta councilors spent the next 15 minutes taking turns to go to the toilet, before boarding their tour bus and leaving.

They were also scheduled to visit Denpasar’s famous “trash bank” – where low-income residents can hand in recyclable waste for money – but only one out of the 32 councilors showed up, according to an official at the site, Ni Luh Oki Damayanti.

Oki told Kompas that the unidentified councilor “took about four photographs, then said goodbye. That was it.”

Another trash bank official, Made Surya Kencana, said the councilor did not ask any questions about the facility or how it worked.

Donal Fariz, a researcher with Indonesia Corruption Watch, questioned the purpose and value of the trip. For one thing, he said, the public works department in Jakarta was more advanced than that in Bali, so the councilors would learn nothing new from visiting the Bali office.

“It just doesn’t make sense, they’ve got it backward,” he said. “Are they going on a study trip or on vacation? If they wanted to study, they could have stayed [in Jakarta].”

Sebastian Salang, from the voter advocacy group Concerned Citizens for the Indonesian Legislature (Formappi), called the visit “a waste of time and money.”

The missed appointment with the Bali councilors, he said, “is the kind of thing that proves that there’s no urgency to these study trips. They go simply out of a desire to travel.”

He also questioned councilors’ claims that the meeting was scheduled ahead of time – a claim roundly denied by the secretary of the Bali legislature. “This certainly deserves to be investigated by the council’s ethics board,” Sebastian said.

Prabowo Soenirman, one of the councilors, acknowledged the criticism over the cost of the trip and the fiasco that was the missed meeting with the Bali councilors, but said all the councilors’ activities in Bali had been “beneficial.” He added that his one real gripe was that he did not have enough spending money to buy souvenirs for friends and family back in Jakarta.

He noted that each councilor received a per diem of Rp 480,000 for three days, a total of Rp 1.44 million for the entire trip.

“I have to dig into my own pocket just to buy souvenirs,” Prabowo, from the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), said as quoted by Kompas.