Legislators play hard-to-get in approving the budget to build a new home for the KPK. Do they fear the growing power of the anti-graft commission?
After so many visits to the offices of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), bookkeeper Yulianis can't help but recall the location of almost every room on the seventh and eight floors of the KPK building in South Jakarta. Yulianis was questioned as a witness in a raft of graft cases involving her former boss, ex-Democrat Party treasurer Mohamad Nazaruddin, who is now serving time in jail. "The seventh floor is where the initial stages of investigations take place. The eighth floor is for the later stages," Yulianis said.
If one were to emerge out of the elevator doors on the eighth floor of the KPK building, the interrogation rooms are to the right of the corridor. There are 18 such rooms, each measuring two by two meters. To reach any one of them, a suspect or a witness would have to walk through this long corridor, about a meter wide, half of which is used for the stacking up of case files. To the left and right side of the corridor, investigators and prosecutors can be seen sharing work desks.
Walking down that hallway, one would have to pass loads of case files, stacked up high against the walls. Some files are packed in cardboard boxes while others in large suitcases, each of them labeled with the name of the suspected corruptor or corruptors in the case. During her walk down this corridor one time, Yulianis came upon the case files of Amrun Daulay, a Democrat Party politician caught in a scandal over the corrupt procurement of cattle and sewing machinery. Amrun's dossiers were just lying there among the rest of the case dossiers. While going through a few pages of them, she asked an investigator: "Why are they all scattered this way?" The investigator answered: "No more space, Ma'am."
This building actually has a room for the archives, but the 20 square meter room located on the ground floor is totally filled. "The case files are beginning to build up," said Bambang Prapto Sunu, the Commission's secretary-general. Some of the files have been moved to the National Archives Building.
The KPK building on Jalan Rasuna Said in Kuningan, South Jakarta, is not only crammed with files. It has become so crowded that KPK commissioners have had to forcibly move some of its staffers to a separate building. Built in 1981, the main building was previously owned by Bank Papan Sejahtera. In 1998, after the bank was liquidated, the assets were seized by the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency. KPK has occupied this building since August 2007.
The building houses 700 KPK employees beyond its intended capacity of 450 people. Currently, the KPK employs 909 people including outsource workers, out of which, 111 are accommodated on the third floor of the former Uppindo building the same building as the city's Corruption Court.
Some of the KPK's Wealth Reporting staff are placed there, and the remaining 98 employees occupy the 15th floor of the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Ministry building on Jalan Merdeka Selatan in Central Jakarta.
Racing against time and pressured by the stifling working conditions, the anti-graft commission is in need of a new building, not just to house all the scattered case files littering the floors but also the people, not to mention those the KPK intends to newly recruit.
A new building is therefore required to house 1,394 employees in the very near future. Plans to have a new building for the KPK surfaced in 2008. According to Bambang, in September of that year, the KPK proposed a budget of Rp187.9 billion. That proposal received a response from the Finance Ministry on December 4, 2008, which said it only had Rp90 billion to spare. Problems however, came from the House of Representatives (DPR) Law Commission. It refused to approve the disbursement of Rp90 billion.
"The House did not provide any explicit reason as to why the proposed budget was marked with a star sign," Bambang said. A star sign on a proposal refers to the budget proposal being frozen indefinitely. House legislators then asked the KPK to find unused space in a state-owned building. After searching far and wide, the KPK ended up borrowing a 15-storey building from the SOEs Ministry in September 2009. Later on, the government also loaned the KPK the three-storey Uppindo building.
This year, the KPK resubmitted the budget proposal for a new building requesting Rp225.7 billion to be disbursed over a a three year period. According to the proposal, the Finance Ministry should disburse Rp16.7 billion this year and the rest, Rp105.5 billion and Rp103.5 billion, in the years 2013 and 2014 respectively. The Finance Ministry has no issue with the proposal. But once again, the problem seems to lie with the DPR.
A member of the Law Commission, Ahmad Basarah, said that today's KPK leaders had failed to fulfill the promises they had made to House legislators. "The KPK failed to uncover major cases," said the politician from the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P). Separately, Ahmad Yani, a United Development Party (PPP) legislator said the KPK only handled petty cases.
Another Law Commission member said that the majority of his colleagues were disappointed they could not depend on the five KPK leaders, particularly Bambang Widjojanto. "BW is unreliable," he said. During the election of the current KPK leadership last year, Bambang was asked to resolve the Bank Century bailout scandal. Legislators who elected him feel they can no longer control Bambang.
At the Law Commission's internal meeting last week, almost all the members agreed not to revoke the 'star sign' from the budget proposed for the new building. In addition to claiming performance as a reason, several parliamentarians consider the KPK as an ad hoc institution which needs no new building, although the Law on the KPK makes no reference to it being non-permanent .
The Law Commission indeed tends to see the KPK as a non-permanent body. "The new building could end up being abandoned when the KPK is closed down," said Golkar politician Bambang Soesatyo. The status of the KPK, on whether it should be permanent or temporary, should be stipulated in a new law governing the institution, and to be deliberated by the Law Commission.
One legislator disagreed about the KPK gaining more power. He said a new building would just mean recruiting new personnel. With more manpower, many more cases would be exposed. And most of the cases uncovered usually involve DPR members.
Legislator Nudirman Munir from the Golkar Party claimed that it was not true the Law Commission refused to grant the KPK's request. Instead, he accused the KPK itself for not being serious with its own request, saying that its leaders failed to turn up at the budget meeting held at the J.W. Marriot Hotel three weeks ago. The KPK was also accused of failing to locate an unoccupied government building as an alternative.
Meanwhile Bambang Widjojanto said that the KPK had its reasons for not attending the J.W. Marriot Hotel meeting. The Legal Commission sent the invitation to the KPK leaders via a text message. "That was not an official invitation," he reasoned. Moreover, the Finance Ministry had informed them there were no more empty government buildings for them.
One of the KPK's few supporters among the legislators is Martin Hutabarat from the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra), who said his colleages were making it worse by rejecting the KPK building budget. "The DPR's image has become tarnished in the public's eyes," he said.
The public, meanwhile, has been collecting donations for the KPK. A group of anti-corruption activists calling themselves "Coalition for the KPK Building" raised almost Rp.100 million in the first three days of their initiative. The money collected may not add up to Rp225.7 billion needed for the new building. But as former Supreme Court Judge Abdul Rahman Saleh, active in the coalition said, "It's not about the money. It's the spirit to fight corruption that matters."
By Anton Septian, Febriyan, Istman Musaharun
No. 45/12, July 03, 2012