The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is squaring off for a battle with lawmakers who are refusing to disburse funds for a new building for the KPK.
Stonewalling at the House of Representatives has drawn criticism from civil society groups, which have issued a public call for donations to finance the project.
The call was made by the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), the Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) and several NGOs.
“This is also a satire we aim at the House, which should actually be helping the corruption eradication drive,” Emerson Yuntho of the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) said on Friday.
KPK Deputy Chairman Bambang Widjojanto, who came up with the public donation initiative, said that the commission would welcome donations from private citizens.
“A civil society movement is something that we can hardly refuse,” Bambang told reporters on Thursday.
The KPK’s leaders have said that the commission needs a new headquarters, as its current building, located in Kuningan, South Jakarta, is operating over capacity.
The building – 31 years old and formerly the headquarters of Bank Papan Sejahtera, which was liquidated by the government in 1999 — was designed to accommodate 350. The KPK currently has 752 employees.
The commission previously announced plans to recruit an additional 500 employees, bringing the total number of people working for or seconded to the commission from other agencies up to 1,200.
Bambang said that the proposal for a new building was supported by several ministries.
“The House of Representatives is the only institution that has not given its approval. We have received approval from the Public Works Ministry and other relevant ministries, which all said that they agreed to the proposal,”
Lawmakers on House Commission III overseeing law, human rights and security, have opposed a request from the KPK to add Rp 160 billion (US$16.9 million) to its budget for the new building.
Several lawmakers have suggested that the KPK move to a vacant building next door instead of asking for money to build a larger headquarters.
Saan Mustofa, a Commission III lawmaker supported by the Democratic Party, whose members have been a recent — and frequent — targets of the KPK’s investigations, said that the KPK would have to do some hard work to convince the House to fund its new building.
“The KPK is not an NGO, but it keeps trying to convince the House Commission to give its approval. They should follow the decision-making process at the House,” Saan said.
Other lawmakers on Commission III have said that the government could save money by delaying the construction of the building.
The House’s austerity concerns appears misplaced. Lawmakers have been criticized for spending a staggering Rp 20 billion to renovate its budget committee meeting room.
Other critics have said that the House’s refusal might stem from the 30 current and former lawmakers who were imprisoned in the Bank Indonesia vote-buying scandal, after they were convicted of accepting bribes to back the appointment of Miranda S. Goeltom to a senior position at the central bank.
It would not the first time that the KPK has met with retaliation for corruption investigations.
After the KPK said that several police generals were involved in graft, the police launched a criminal investigation of KPK deputies Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Samad Riyanto as suspects for “abuse of power” in slapping travel ban on graft suspect, Anggoro Widodo.
The investigation sparked a public outcry that became known as the “Crocodile vs. Gecko” showdown, with the police cast as the toothy predator and the KPK deputies as the tiny lizards.
Meanwhile, Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin said that he supported the KPK’s plan to seek donations from the public.
“I support this civil society movement and I am ready to become the first donor,” he told reporters at the ministry’s office in Jakarta.
House vs. KPK
2012: The House plans to spend Rp 20.3 billion (US$2.23 million) to expand its budget committee room to accommodate 85 people, up from 50.
2011: Lawmakers allocate Rp 1.1 trillion ($116.6 million) to construct a new House of Representatives building that will every one of its 560 members a 111.1-square-meter office in January. The proposal is scuttled by Speaker Marzuki Alie in May.
• 2011 : Rp 540 billion ($57 million)
• 2010 : Rp 431 billion ($45.5 million)
• 2009 : Rp 315 billion ($33.3 million)
• 2008 : Rp 233 billion ($24.6 million)
Number of KPK employees:
• 2011 : 752
• 2010 : 638
• 2009 : 652
• 2008 : 540