Editorial: Mud-slinging matches

The wealth of public officials is in the spotlight. Recently it was the former director general of taxation who is now chairman of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), Hadi Poernomo.

According to a government assessment in 2008, most of Hadi’s fortune (Rp 26.58 billion) came from donations, Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) reported last week.

This is a shocking revelation because unless we have a bunch of extremely generous donors among us, even a top civil servant cannot accumulate such huge wealth.

Credit is due to the anti-graft agency since the revelation is in line with the government’s agenda to curb corruption.

The fight against graft suffered aa relapse late last year when the National Police and Attorney General’s Office (AGO) were found to have colluded to undermine the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). These authorities are two of the most important law enforcing bodies in Indonesia.

Where else can we place our hopes when these judicial institutions have apparently drifted so far from their missions, as businessman Anggodo Widjojo demonstrated with his telephone conversations that were broadcast live on television?

The spotlight on Hadi is a twist in irony, since the BPK is one of the agencies assisting the House inquiry committee to find irregularities behind the controversial Rp 6.76 trillion Bank Century bailout.

The 2-month inquiry, broadcast live on national television, was initially expected to target Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Vice President Boediono, the two top officials responsible for the bailout decision, when the latter was the governor of Bank Indonesia.

Hadi was one of the director generals removed by Sri Mulyani under her 2006 reform program.

This is a classic case where the “pot is calling the kettle black”.

Hadi is the latest person under the spotlight, on the sidelines of the inquiry.

Earlier, legislators from two of the most vocal parties in the bailout were charged with corruption.

Emir Moies of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) was reported to have made several suspicious transactions with Bank Century. While admitting that he had made several transactions with the bank, Emir insisted that none were illegal.

Inquiry chairman Idrus Marham of the Golkar Party was also reported to the National Police by the Association of Village Unit Cooperatives (Inkud) for suspected graft in the procurement of transportation for 60,000 tons of rice from the customs office in 2003.

Mud-slinging between opposing political groups continues with demands to question House’s Golkar Party chairman Setya Novanto who is reportedly responsible for the procurement.

Following Soeharto’s fall in 1998, new laws were issued obliging public officials to declare their wealth.

However, four presidents after Soeharto, it seems easy for public officials to get around these laws
with impunity. The arrogance of power that was nurtured under Soeharto seems to be too strong to overcome. Following closely is the preservation (if not escalation) of corruption.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who just entered his second term in office, has his hands full in working to make his battle cry from his election campaign into a reality. But Yudhoyono needs to be more resolute to curb this social ill. Otherwise, he will not live up to his words.