The KPK has exposed suspected bribery during deliberations over the budget for a Qur'an book printing project. A Golkar legislator and his son have been named suspects. Young MKGR activists are said to be involved.
THE Golkar Party politician repeatedly made istighfar asking God's forgiveness. His voice trembled. "I was surprised," said Zulkarnaen Djabar, the legislator, when asked about his status as a suspect in the Qur'an printing project bribery case, on Thursday night last week.
After a pause, Zulkarnaen said he had not been questioned by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). He was asked about the budget year of the project suspected of being tainted by bribery. "I have no idea," he said.
Being a member of Commission VIII in the House of Representatives (DPR), which deals with religious affairs, since 2004 Zulkarnaen had been under the radar screen. The 59-year-old rarely appears in the mass media, including the time he took part in a comparative study to Australia last year. Today, the activist of the Mutual Cooperation Brotherhood Forum (MKGR), a Golkar Party-affiliated organization, has become the center of public attention, ever since the KPK named him a suspect.
KPK leaders accuse Zulkarnaen of being involved in a bribery during budget deliberation. An order to investigate the case was signed on Tuesday last week. "ZD has been named a suspect," said KPK Deputy Chairman Bambang Widjojanto, referring to Zulkarnaen.
A Tempo source said that the KPK suspected Zulkarnaen's involvement since the middle of last year. His telephone communications with some officials of the Directorate General of Muslim Community Guidance have been monitored by the anti-corruption commission. "They had very intense communication," said the source.
Zulkarnaen, a transportation businessman, is suspected of pushing through the budget for the Ministry of Religious Affairs. He is a member of the Budget Council in the DPR's Religious Affairs Commission. In this strategic position, he is always the liaison with officials of the Religious Affairs Ministry during budget deliberations.
In May 2011, when proposed projects were being considered through the Revised National Budget, some important information was received by the KPK. Zulkarnaen was suspected of setting up a meeting with officials of the Religious Affairs Ministry and a representative of a printing company.
It was suspected that at the meeting in question, the company representative handling the Qur'an printing project was about to give Zulkarnaen a bag full of money. "They promised to meet at a hotel in Pancoran, South Jakarta," they said.
That bag of money was suspected of being a service fee for ensuring the addition of the Qur'an printing as a Rp22.8 billion budget item in the Revised State Budget. Investigators headed for the hotel around noon. They kept a close watch on several locations they guessed might be the meeting place. "They were targets of an OTT, an operation to catch them in the act," said the source.
As of that afternoon, no illicit transaction had taken place. The bag containing money which had been prepared did not change hands. "[News of] the operation leaked. The target did not show up," they said. The businessperson who is often awarded projects in the Religious Affairs Ministry remained in possession of the bag.
Zulkarnaen denied being actively involved in the budget deliberations for the Qur'an printing project. "I just carried out the normal routine," he said. He said that he did not remember all of the items in the budget of the Religious Affairs Ministry which were discussed at the Commission or in the Budget Council.
Nevertheless, KPK officials searched his office on the 13th floor of the Nusantara 1 Building of the parliament complex in Senayan, Central Jakarta, on Friday afternoon last week. After six hours, investigators left with two black PCs and a white Dell tablet computer.
Investigators also took documents, which were put into two large brown boxes, one medium-sized box, and a small box. "Some of the items were taken," said one employee of the DPR's secretariat general, who was present during the search.
At the same time, Zulkarnaen's two houses, on Jalan Cenderawasih IX No. 158, Jati Cempaka, Bekasi, and at the DPR Housing Complex in Kalibata, South Jakarta, were searched.
The Religious Affairs Ministry regularly has a project to print more Qur'ans. Its budget is a moneymaker for politicians in the legislature and those in the printing business. The need for 2 million copies annually, which are then distributed all around the country, cannot be met by the printers belonging to the Religious Affairs Ministry. This printing operation in Cisarua, West Java, can only supply 60,000-70,000 copies.
One former House member said that Zulkarnaen had been handling the printing project since 2009. They said during that term, the Qur'an printing project only went to a few particular companies. "Just those few businesspeople," they said.
The modus is a relatively simple one. The book printing project is submitted by an official of the Religious Affairs Ministry by communicating with Zulkarnaen. The politician born in Padang, West Sumatra, was given the task of 'keeping watch' over the deliberations in the House commission and in the Budget Council. All of the activity costs are covered by the printing company owner. "Securing it is easy because all of the Commission members get a share," said the former House member.
Zulkarnaen called his oldest son, Dendy Prasetya, to get involved. Dendy is listed as CEO of PT Karya Sinergi Alam Indonesia, one of the companies which was awarded a project. According to one source, Dendy and activist Fahd A. Rafiq actively arranged to win the project bidding at the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Fahd was already a suspect in another case, namely bribery connected to Regional Infrastructure Acceleration Funds. Along with Dendy, he is active in the MKGR Youth Movement, a youth organization also affiliated with the Golkar Party. Fahd is its chairman, and Dendy is the secretary-general.
KPK investigators recorded cellular telephone communication between these two youths. On several occasions Fahd had important messages for Dendy. "Has the plot of land for the kiai been readied?" he asked. There was also the statement, "That is the share of ustadz and the boarding school, don't mess with it."
It was later discovered that the words 'kiai,' 'ustadz,' and 'boarding school' were code for the recipients of funds scammed from the project. 'Kiai' referred to a politician in the legislature, 'ustadz' was used to refer to officials of the Religious Affairs Ministry, and 'boarding school' meant the political party.
KPK Chairman Abraham Samad said that Dendy and his father were running officials at the Directorate General for Muslim Community Guidance to get the project awarded to PT Adhi Aksara Abadi Indonesia and PT Karya Sinergy Alam Indonesia.
According to Abraham, over the past two years it had been known that Dendy was diverting hundreds of millions to billions of rupiah to his father. "This was done in stages," he said.
In addition to the Qur'an printing project, Dendy and Zulkarnaen are also being charged with receiving bribes during the deliberations over a computer lab at the Ministry of Religious Affairs in 2011. According to Abraham, father and son worked it out so that the bidding committee would award the project to a company abbreviated as PT BKM.
Another source said that the computer lab project was connected with the Permai Group, the group of businesses belonging to Muhammad Nazaruddin, the former Democrat Party treasurer. The KPK found Zulkarnaen's name in Permai Group financial data confiscated from the office computer of Yulianis, the Permai Group's director of finance.
In an accounting entry dated January 24, 2010, Rp1 billion was recorded with code MK2/11/02/2401 for 'Support for Commission VIII Ministry of Religious Affairs 2010.' The money was received by Zulkarnain Djabar and Nurul Iwan through a Permai Group employee named Bayu.
Dendy could not be reached for comment. Fahd A. Rafiq denied being involved in arranging the project. He said he is only close to Dendy as a colleague in the organization. "I don't know anything," he said. The son of famous dangdut music singer A. Rafiq challenged anyone to prove if his name is on the founding act of the company which was awarded the project. "Go ahead and check it out."
The KPK's breakthrough in exposing the bribery surrounding those budget deliberations comes as bad news for the Deputy Minister of Religious Affair, Nasaruddin Umar. This is because the project was conducted when he was director-general of Muslim Community Guidance. "I was surprised and never suspected it," he said.
A Tempo source said that Nasaruddin is in a precarious position, because it makes him look like he allowed such corruption to take place in that project. As an Echelon I official holding budget use authorization, he is considered to be responsible.
According to some documents, the project which ran from 2009 to 2011 used up Rp28.5 billion. Over four projects to print the Qur'an, the Directorate General of Muslim Community Guidance was actually able to save up to Rp3.05 billion of the budget's funds. "But those funds were not put into the state's coffers," said the source.
The source added that Nasaruddin appears to have allowed the project manipulation to take place. However this is because of pressure from Ermalena Muslim, a special staff member of Minister Suryadharma Ali. Ermalena is listed as head of the Central Leadership Board of the United Development Party (PPP).
Lawyer Adi Warman said that two complaints were received from the Commitment-Making Official of the Directorate General of Muslim Community Guidance, Rohadi Abdul Fatah in November 2011. According to him, Rohadi at that time said, "If this project becomes a mess, Ermalena must take responsibility."
Two months later, Rohadi could not continue his job as the official supervising project bidding. Last December this director of Islamic Affairs and Islamic Legal Guidance died suddenly during a trip from Jakarta to Bandung.
Ermalena could not be reached for her comment. There has been no response to the interview request and written questions sent to her office. Nasaruddin Umar declined to answer when he was asked about the intervention by party friends such as Minister Suryadharma. "I will not comment about that," he said.
Nazaruddin said that he does not oversee all of the bidding activity for Qur'an printing. He lamented, "It is a lot. It is impossible for me to watch over every one of them."
By Setri Yasra, Ananda Badudu, Gadi Makinta, Elliza Hamzah, Subkhan
No. 45/12, July 03, 2012