Jakarta City Council Starts Formal Probe Against Basuki


MARCH 11, 2015

Jakarta. The Jakarta City Council launched a formal investigation against Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama on Wednesday, in a move that could result in his impeachment.

Muhammad Sangaji, chairman of the council’s investigation committee, said his team would conduct a marathon hearing session, which he said would conclude sometime next week.

“I am giving 10 days tops and we should have the results,” he said of his team’s investigation.

Basuki has drawn the ire of councilors for refusing to submit the Rp 90 trillion ($6.8 billion) version of the budget to the Home Ministry, submitting instead the Rp 78 trillion version his administration proposed.

In response, Basuki accused councilors of surreptitiously adding wasteful spending to the capital’s budget without his approval.

In a floor vote, the council unanimously voted to launch an inquiry, which could lead to Basuki’s impeachment, on the grounds that his move to submit the lower budget was unlawful and in contempt of the council’s authority.

But amid strong signs of public support for the governor, some parties indicated that they would withdraw their support for the inquiry.

On Tuesday, the National Mandate Party (PAN) became the third to renege on their “yea” vote, joining the United Development Party (PPP) and Sangaji’s own National Democratic Party (Nasdem).

The National Awakening Party (PKB) may also be mulling a similar move.

But Sangaji said despite the three parties’ withdrawal, the inquiry process would continue as the council had earlier decided.

“Just wait, we’ll summon Ahok himself,” the councilor said, referring to the governor by his popular nickname.

The council on Wednesday summoned several contractors hired by the capital to implement an online budgeting system, which the governor said would put an end to manipulation by city officials and council members, which have encroached on the capital’s coffers for years.

“All sides linked to the [budgeting] process will be summoned. So everything will be clear and no one will accuse each other [of wrongdoing]. In 10 days we will reach our conclusion. Afterwards we will stage a plenary [for a floor vote],” Sangaji said.

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo meanwhile signaled that Basuki had acted according to the rules and regulations by submitting the city’s original version.

“We will only process one version,” Tjahjo said on Wednesday.

When asked whether that version was the one originally proposed by the city, the minister’s response was: “Of course!”

The ministry, Tjahjo said, will ratify the city’s version soon.

“We have finished evaluating the city’s entire budget. We will sign and send it [back to the city government] immediately,” he said.

The minister also indicated that the city’s final budget might even be less than the proposed Rp 78 trillion.

Tjahjo explained that the ministry wanted the city administration to lower the amounts earmarked for officials’ salaries and bonuses, saying that its Rp 19 trillion proposal was too high.

“It is even bigger than the money spent on flood mitigation in the capital, which is Rp 5.3 trillion,” he said.

“Other non-essential expenses, such as overseas trips, visits, advertisements and meetings, are OK in principle but must be reduced also,” the minister added.

The ministry will return its evaluation to the city administration and the council — a potential source for more disputes.

“If there’s a deadlock, the ministry will have no choice but to reenact the 2014 budget,” he said, adding that the Home Ministry’s decision would not be affected by the ongoing inquiry.

“We will not let [the budget] be held hostage,” he said.

“If [the council] wants to proceed with its inquiry, go ahead. The same with the KPK and police,” Tjahjo said, referring to separate investigations launched by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the Jakarta Police into irregularities in last year’s budget, which Basuki said was marred by similar manipulations.

The police already questioned dozens of witnesses in connection with suspicious earmarks in the city’s budget for last year to procure uninterruptable power supply devices for schools that did not request them, and at costs that appear to be highly inflated.

Last year, the city spent nearly Rp 330 billion on the UPS devices for 55 schools in the capital, in a program that Basuki says his administration had never proposed.

The schools say they neither needed, nor asked for the devices, which at a price tag of Rp 6 billion each is highly inflated compared with retail listings of no more than Rp 20 million.

The companies listed as tender winners for the procurement were also deemed suspicious. The addresses that are listed turned out to be empty warehouses and small shops.

“We want to know more about who these tender winners are,” Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Martinus Sitompul said. “We want to look at their profiles, including their previous [procurement] activities to see if they truly deserve to be [tender] winners.”

The police, he continued, have also questioned school officials to determine whether there were any criminal acts in how the project budget was compiled, particularly with schools saying they never needed UPS devices in the first place.

“We will examine [the procurement] from the budgeting process all the way to the final delivery. So anyone involved in this chain should better be ready to face [police] questioning,” Martinus said. He added that as of Wednesday, the Jakarta Police had summoned 21 people.

The latest to be summoned were Lasro Marbun, former Jakarta Education Agency chief, Ibnu Hajar chief of the agency’s West Jakarta chapter, Rani Nurani the project’s manager for West Jakarta and Saryono, the principal of 112 State High School, one of the schools receiving the UPS devices.