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Government makes last ditch
effort at reform

Before President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s term ends in 2014, his administration is attempting a last-ditch attempt at the impossible: overhauling the bureaucracy. Apart from three bills, there is a “grand design” for bureaucratic reform to achieve a professional, streamlined and clean bureaucracy.

Challenges abound. Following last year’s detention of Gayus H. Tambunan, the low-ranking tax official with a personal wealth of more than Rp 100 billion (US$10.7 million), more than a dozen officials at the Finance Ministry were fired along with him. The ministry under Sri Mulyani Indrawati was called a beacon of hope when she installed a drastic antigraft pilot project at the customs office.

Today, one graft case under investigation is the planned Hambalang sports center in Bogor, West Java. Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng of the President’s Democratic Party insists that the project must continue. Earlier, party officials were detained for graft regarding the athletic complex in South Sumatra.

On top of chronic corruption, the interests of political parties and sheer inefficiency, the bureaucracy has grown larger — though only about 500,000 more compared to the average total of 4 million under Soeharto. Executives and observers say this was worsened by the intervention of elected officials under regional autonomy. Can new laws address these problems?

The legislature is deliberating the bills on the state apparatus, the revision of the civil service bill and on the government’s code of ethics. Legislator Gandjar Pranowo said most laws already address good governance and efficiency; Gayus, for instance, was sacked for violating the civil service code of ethics.

But legislators say the whole package of these related laws should boost bureaucracy reform. The government’s code of ethics bill, for one, should ensure all authorities carry out the recommendations of the Indonesian Ombudsman, the state body monitoring violations by state authorities, mainly regarding public services.

Yet all this needs strong leadership. Political analyst Siti Zuhro said the President could not rely only on Vice President Boediono and Administrative Reforms Minister Azwar Abubakar.

“We need a bulldozer to execute bureaucracy reform,” Siti said.

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