Agency chief Yuli Hartono said Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was concerned about the overlapping projects in the capital which he said have damaged Jakarta's infrastructure and caused safety concerns. (Antara Photo/M. Agung Rajasa)

Jakarta City Council Striking Back at ‘Loudmouth’ Basuki

BY :LENNY TRISTIA TAMBUN & DETI MEGA PURNAMASARI

FEBRUARY 26, 2015

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama at City Hall in Jakarta on Jan. 22, 2015. (Antara Photo/M. Agung Rajasa)

Jakarta. The Jakarta City Council on Thursday unanimously decided to launch an inquiry against the capital’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, for submitting a budget proposal the council had yet to revise.

The governor has fully acknowledged that the draft budget had not been approved by the council upon its submission to the Home Affairs Ministry, but argued that the council-approved version was filled with initiatives not unauthorized by City Hall.

These unsanctioned programs, Basuki argued, inflated the city’s initial 2015 budget of Rp 78 trillion ($60.89 billion) by a further Rp 12.1 trillion.

The governor earlier estimated a budget inflation of Rp 8.8 trillion.

However, the council remains adamant that regardless of these irregularities, the governor’s move to submit a budget proposal without its consent violated at least three separate laws.

In a floor vote conducted on Thursday, all 91 Council members present voted “yea” for launching a probe — a move that could result in Basuki’s impeachment.

“This is a serious violation,” said Fahmi Zulfikar of the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) when presenting his party’s views to the plenary. “In our view, the governor has insulted the council as a state institution.”

Before the plenary session, 102 out of the 106 council members signed a petition supporting the inquiry, in a rare display of harmony between the pro-government Awesome Indonesian Coalition (KIH) and opposition Red-White Coalition (KMP).

Johnny Simanjuntak of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), a KIH party, said the remaining four council members “did not sign [the petition] because of technical matters. One of them is from Hanura who is away in Papua.

“The PDI-P wants to show the people of Jakarta that the governor is not always right. He is a loudmouth who cares more about his image,” Johnny said of the PDI-P’s support for the probe.

According to the 2014 Regional Administration Law, the council can recommend the president fire Basuki for disobeying regulations with a floor vote attended by at least two-thirds of council members. It also requires at least 75 percent of the vote from councilors present to recommend an impeachment.

The case would then go to the Supreme Court, which will weigh the circumstances and ultimately decide the governor’s fate.

Should the court endorse the council’s recommendation, the president would, by law, have no choice but to fire Basuki. But the Jakarta governor, known for his outspoken and uncompromising leadership style, said he would stand his ground and refuse to accept the Rp 12.1 trillion worth of additional programs made by the council in an effort, he said, to funnel funds into their pockets. “I think it’s better not to lose sleep over this,” he said about the council’s plans for an inquiry.

“I just concentrate on my work. Jakartans will find out for themselves who’s right and who’s wrong; whose [version of the budget] sides with the people and whose does not.”

Basuki said the council had added its own programs during the budget’s deliberation process.

The governor cited irregularities for the city’s education agency to exemplify his point, pointing out that the program to spend Rp 4.5 billion on audio equipment for elementary school classrooms, and the plan to purchase Rp 15 billion worth of teaching aids for kindergarten teachers, were not proposed by his administration.

Also on the initial budget was a bid to use Rp 6 billion for uninterrupted power supply systems for junior high schools and Rp 25 billion for teacher training.

Neither had been approved or put forward by City Hall, but “all were included in the City Council’s budget proposal,” Basuki said. “ This is why I refused to submit their version to the Home Affairs Ministry.

“The education agency never proposed these programs. Yet they appeared [on the budget], as if out of nowhere. That is a manipulation [of the system]."

“Is it even appropriate to ask for such unnecessary items when our schools are crumbling? Of course not. Forty-eight percent of schools in Jakarta are dilapidated. And [the council] wants us to buy Rp 6 billion worth of UPS machines?”

The governor said he was actually looking forward to the council’s inquiry, saying that it would offer him the chance to expose the various “corruption activities” that have become the norm in legislatures across the country.

It would also allow him to determine which council members were behind the additional programs and report them to the National Police, the Attorney General’s Office and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), he said.

“We’ll see. I can go to jail [for administrative violations] or the council members can go to jail [for budget manipulation],” he said. “Or better yet, we can all go down together.”

Basuki added that he had gathered evidence from the Financial Development Comptroller (BPKP) and the Home Affairs Ministry that would prove the practice of budget manipulation had been taking place for years — long before he took up the governor’s seat last November.

He noted that plans he put forward last year take would have taken the entire budgeting process online to avoid costly discrepancies, but they were rejected by councilors and several city officials.

“This year, I am not accepting any excuses. The city [administration] will be using an e-budgeting system from now on,” Basuki said.

Council member Johnny denied Basuki’s allegations of attempts at manipulation on the legislature’s part, claiming that all programs had been discussed by both sides during the deliberation process.

Basuki “never objected [to the programs] during deliberation. Besides, if the Jakarta administration objects to proposals made by the council, then don’t execute them. But don’t go around and change [the revised budget],” Johnny said. “Let [the governor] says what he wants. He is just panicking because 102 council members petitioned to launch an inquiry.”

University of Indonesia political expert Arbi Sanit urged Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo to step in to resolve the escalating conflict between the governor and the City Council.

“Conflict and disagreements between the executive and legislature in Jakarta are not uncommon. But in this case, both sides failed to reach a peaceful agreement, which has culminated in the current political showdown,” Arbi said. “ The Home Affairs Ministry must intercede. [The administration and the council] cannot resolve this on their own.”

Regional Representatives Council (DPD) Speaker Irman Gusman called the motion for an inquiry “excessive,” and urged both sides to exercise reason.

Budget deliberations are now nearly two months behind schedule. City Council members failed to even start discussions on Jakarta’s financial plans for 2015 by mid-December, largely due to fractured council politics that led to a delay in convening the necessary committees.

As a result, the Home Affairs Ministry’s Dec. 31 deadline for regional governments to finalize their 2015 budgets and related regulations came and went, triggering censure measures against council members that included suspension of their pay.

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