Basuki Serves Up ‘Proof’ of Budget Fixing by Jakarta City Council
Jakarta. Indonesia’s antigraft commission has vowed to follow up on a report by Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alleging budget irregularities by the City Council, with Basuki saying the chamber’s members added to the capital’s 2015 spending plan without City Hall’s approval.
Basuki said on Friday afternoon that he had deposited printouts of the city’s budget with the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK — amounting, in the governor’s words, to “two boxes of instant noodles,” or roughly 60 linear centimeters of paper, by the Jakarta Globe’s calculations.
“The team will follow up on the governor’s complaints by first reviewing the report,” said Johan Budi, an interim KPK commissioner. “We’ll look at what information and data is valid and accurate, and conclude if there are indications of corruption [to investigate].”
If the KPK finds indications of criminal activity, the commission will launch an investigation, Johan added.
Basuki said the two boxes presented to the KPK contained evidence of “stealth spending” inserted after the budget had been approved, as indicated by separate audits conducted by the Jakarta Supreme Audit Agency (BPKP) and the Regional Development Planning Agency (Bappeda) of the budgets approved by City Hall, totaling Rp 78 trillion ($6 billion), and that approved by the City Council, which amounts to Rp 90 trillion.
“I’ve come here to the KPK with evidence of differences in the budget that I submitted to the City Council, which was drafted through the e-budgeting system, and that approved by our colleagues in the council,” Basuki said. “There’s quite a big difference — Rp 12 trillion.”
Basuki has since submitted his own version of the budget to the Home Affairs Ministry.
His hard-line approach to what he believes is unauthorized spending inserted by rogue councilors has provoked threats among the council’s members this week to launch proceedings that, if realized, could result in the governor’s impeachment.
Basuki has said that, if faced with impeachment, he would rather lose his job than let members of the City Council manipulate the capital’s budget.
The governor would appear to have backing, however, from at least one well-placed supporter; Basuki met with President Joko Widodo at the State Palace on Friday.
Joko, Basuki said, offered unconditional support for his struggle to reject the Rp 12.1 trillion allegedly inserted by councilors without the administration’s knowledge or consent.
“The president said that e-budgeting must go ahead [to avoid such schemes from happening again],” the governor said. “Yes, e-budgeting is still new, but it must be implemented.”
Taking the budgeting process online is seen as a measure to stop councilors and rogue officials from adding programs of their own under dubious circumstances and for unjustifiable amounts.
Among the items that the councilors allegedly inserted was the procurement of uninterruptible power supply systems to 55 schools across the city — at a cost of nearly Rp 6 billion each. The schools say that they neither need nor requested the devices.
The price tag is also questionable. According to online retailers, consumer-grade UPS machines sell for between $40 and $1,800. The most advanced consumer-grade model has an output power capacity of 2,700 watts and a run time of 15 minutes, enough for 10 computers.
“This is why we need to take [these irregularities] to law enforcement so we’ll know which [officials] are manipulating [the budget] and which councilors are getting rich because of this,” Basuki said. “I asked for [the president’s] commitment to implement e-budgeting across Indonesia. The president agrees. He wants to stop regional budgets from being tampered with.”
In an unprecedented move, Basuki refused to submit the Rp 90 trillion budget proposal approved by the City Council to the Home Affairs Ministry — submitting instead what he says is the lower-cost version that his administration had initially proposed.
Regardless of the irregularities, the council remains adamant that the governor’s move to submit a budget proposal that it hadn’t signed off on violated at least three separate laws.
In a floor vote conducted on Thursday, all 91 council members present voted in favor of launching a probe — a move that could result in Basuki’s impeachment.
According to the 2014 Regional Administration Law, the council can recommend the president fire Basuki for disobeying regulations with a floor vote attended by a quorum of at least two-thirds of council members. At least 75 percent the councilors present must vote to recommend impeachment.
The council’s impeachment indictment would then be forwarded to the Supreme Court for a trial on the council’s bill of indictment that would 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 dismiss Basuki.
‘Other leaders must speak up’
Indonesia Corruption Watch chairman Ade Irawan applauded Basuki for sticking to his guns and facing down the council’s impeachment threat in order to expose the truth behind the council’s manipulation of the budget.
“Jakarta isn’t the only one that has embezzlement issues. We rarely hear of them just because the leaders prefer to stay silent and follow the requests or even cooperate with the councilors. All for their own interests,” Ade told the Jakarta Globe on Friday. “Now that Basuki has brought this up, other leaders must learn to speak up too, unless they’re also corrupt.”
Political expert Hamdi Muluk of the University of Indonesia (UI) said Basuki could purposely break the rules to say: “We need change.”
“What’s happening between Basuki and the council actually generates good momentum toward eliminating [many] budgeting violations by lawmakers, not just in the capital but throughout Indonesia,” he told the Globe.
For years, allegations of corruption in the budgetary process has amounted to little more than unsubstantiated rumors, Hamdi said, with all involved keeping silent while profiting from such schemes.
Even when regional leaders are not in on the action, “no one has guts to reveal it,” Hamdi said, lest they face a backlash from lawmakers.
“Should there be an impeachment, the public will likely support Basuki. The public must watch this process closely to know who is wrong and who is right.”
Senior political researcher Siti Zuhro of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), however, said it would be difficult for Basuki to evade impeachment, but added that Basuki was well aware of the risks he was taking: “Legally speaking, Basuki is wrong for submitting an unapproved document,” she said.
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Source: The Jakarta Globe