The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said Thursday it had identified 48 “weaknesses” in the Religious Affairs Ministry’s management of the Muslim haj, which could lead to corruption.
“We urge the Religious Affairs Ministry to improve its haj management,” commission deputy chairman M. Jasin said.
He said the loopholes could be found in virtually all aspects of haj management, which has long been criticized for lacking transparency.
Action was taken previously by the Finance Ministry to shift the management of deposited haj funds away from the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Fom January to March, the anti-graft body investigated the management of the 2009 haj pilgrimage, focusing mainly on its procedures starting from the registration of prospective haj pilgrims, the coaching for potential pilgrims, their departure to Saudi Arabia, their logistics and accommodation in Saudi Arabia and their return to Indonesia.
Among the weaknesses were the lack of required implementing regulations for the 2008 law on pilgrimage management, the questionable channeling of interest from pilgrim haj installment deposits and the lack of transparency concerning the DAU or Public Trust Fund, which holds any excess interest not disbursed for pilgrimage services.
“If there were 700,000 potential haj pilgrims on the waiting list, they would deposit almost Rp 16 trillion [US$ 1.74 billion] in total. The interest on this amount alone would be massive,” Jasin said.
Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said that the ministry kept the money from the deposits for haj costs in several banks and used the interest on haj purposes.
The ministry used the interest for improving passport and visa services, haj accommodation and transportation, as well as embarkation services and food services, he added.
“These improvements are initiated for the pilgrims’ comfort,” the minister said.
However, the process of channeling funds and the use of the interest-based service improvement fund is not well monitored, Jasin said, adding these services did not account for all of the interest accrued.
The KPK also found gaps between the number of seats used for haj pilgrims and the capacity of the aircraft used. Jasin said that the ministry had allocated only 325 seats from the potential total of 400 seats for each flight.
“We use a per seat price mechanism instead of a charter price,” Suryadharma said, adding that this was to ensure pilgrims’ comfort.
Each year, the Haj Management Body (BPIH) and the State Budget allocated Rp 6 trillion for managing the pilgrimage.
Last year, Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) reported several possible corruption cases in relation to pilgrimage management.
In particular, ICW cited discrepancies between allocated and actual expenses, mostly relating to pilgrimage accommodation in 2009.
“We will follow up on this issue in two months,” Suryadharma said, adding that the ministry would then need two years to formulate an action plan to rectify the faults and weaknesses identified. (ipa)