A leading budget watchdog has ascribed Rp 8.3 trillion ($852 million) in state losses to 15 ministries, with the Forestry Ministry alone allegedly responsible for up to Rp 7.1 trillion in missing money, although government officials have vehemently denied the claims.
Uchok Sky Khadafi, the director for investigations and advocacy at the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra), said on Thursday that the findings were based on data from the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK).
Uchok said the BPK reported ministries had incurred losses of Rp 8.3 trillion from 1,950 total cases in the second half of 2012.
Topping the list was the Forestry Ministry, which Fitra said lost Rp 7.1 trillion in 278 cases. A distant second was the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry with Rp 379 billion in alleged losses from 72 cases.
In third and fourth were the office of the coordinating minister for people’s welfare and the Agriculture Ministry, which Fitra said lost Rp 269 billion and Rp 200 billion respectively.
The Communications and Information Technology Ministry lost a reported Rp 174 billion, while 10 other ministries cited losses of less than Rp 100 billion each.
Uchok said the figures highlighted the problem with giving key cabinet portfolios to ministers who were members of political parties.
“Party-affiliated ministers are incredibly lousy in their financial management, as can be seen in these indications of state losses,” he said.
“It just goes to prove that they’re neither serious nor competent when it comes to managing state funds.”
However, several of the ministers have refuted Fitra’s claims.
Zulkifli Hasan, the forestry minister and a member of the National Mandate Party (PAN), said the real figures were Rp 6.2 trillion and $65.8 million, and that they were not state losses but rather non-tax revenue that his ministry was still trying to collect from third parties since 2002.
“We’re continuing to collect on those payments, both at the regional level and at the central level, and to date we’ve whittled down the outstanding amount to just Rp 2.1 trillion,” he said.
Zulkifli added that the BPK’s audit of his ministry’s financial statement for the second half of last year was issued with an unqualified opinion.
Agung Laksono, the coordinating minister for people’s welfare, also expressed skepticism at the alleged Rp 269 billion loss attributed to his office.
“Our whole budget doesn’t even come up to that much,” he said, as quoted by Detik.com, adding that as a coordinating ministry, his office was not directly responsible for funding or administering costly programs or projects.
Agus Sartono, the coordinating ministry’s acting secretary, told Radio Republic Indonesia that the ministry’s actual budget during the period in question was Rp 221 billion — much less than the amount it was alleged to have lost.
He called the allegations “highly irresponsible” and warned that Fitra stood to lose all credibility if it based its claims on “rubbish data.”
Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring also argued that the numbers presented by Fitra did not represent state losses.
“You can’t draw a conclusion like that from the BPK audit,” he said.
“These audits are conducted every year, but it doesn’t mean that losses are occurring all the time. For instance, in 2011 the figure was even larger, but we managed to explain it to the BPK and everything was duly resolved.”
Tifatul added it was likely the budget watchdog had misconstrued the BPK’s findings of discrepancies in auditing parameters as evidence of state losses.
Uchok, however, insisted the figures were right and said that there was a case to be made for the ministers in question not to run for public office in the 2014 legislative election.
“Fitra is asking for the ministers who plan to run as legislative candidates to drop out of the race, so that there are no allegations later on that they might be misusing their ministries’ funding for their personal and party-related expenses,” he said.
Ministers who have been nominated as legislative candidates by their parties include Zulkifli, Agriculture Minister Suswono, Energy Minister Jero Wacik and Manpower Minister Muhaimin Iskandar.
Fitra alleges that Muhaimin’s office was responsible for some Rp 17 billion worth of state losses.