Discourse: The KPK seems to be choosing what not to investigate
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The massive public support directed toward the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which has been in conflict with the House of Representatives over the plan to construct a new building, has turned into an existential battle over the future of the anti-graft commission. The scuffle has also drawn the attention of global anti-graft campaigners. One of the campaigners was the former commissioner of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) Bertrand de Speville. He now also serves as the Council of Europe’s Multidisciplinary Group on Corruption. He spoke to The Jakarta Post’s Margareth Aritonang and M. Taufiqurrahman last week in Jakarta.
Question: What happened in Hong Kong to make it successful in its fight against corruption?
Answer: I’ve come to believe that there are seven essentials for success in this fight. I call them essentials because I believe if any one of them is missing then you can’t succeed. And I think these seven essentials apply to the fight against corruption in any country no matter how big or small, no matter what the political system may be.
First of all is political will. Nothing can move unless there is a certain amount of political will at the top.
Second, we must have our values on this question clearly set out in law. The values that we all share throughout the world that say bribery is a sin and is morally wrong.
Third, we need to have a strategy for fighting corruption. We must uphold the value that bribery is wrong, and we do that by the repression, investigation, persecution, conviction and punishment of those who bridge that value. We must also educate people to help them understand why corruption is wrong.
We must also prevent corruption by looking at our system and procedures one by one because they provide us with an opportunity to be corrupt. Therefore, we need to adjust the systems to remove such opportunities.
Fourth, there must be a way of implementing the plan and strategy, and this is what the KPK is mandated to do.
Fifth, you need public support. You can not win this fight unless you develop and maintain that.
The sixth essential element is resources. It’s not enough to just have a law to create a body with a few people in it. You have to have enough people and money to be effective.
The final requirement is endurance, and the realization that tackling corruption takes a long time. Endurance has two components; time and pain. The community, legislators and leaders need to understand that an effective fight against corruption is painful.
What is your assessment on the resources that the KPK now has?
I think the resources are inadequate. The KPK needs more. It has only 752 employees for a population of around 240 million people.
How many staff are needed to make the KPK work more work effectively?
When I worked with the Ministry of Justice in 2000 and 2001 doing the planning for the KPK, our best estimate was that it would need to be at least 8,000 strong.
What about the KPK’s investigation policy?
The KPK seems to be choosing what to investigate and what not to investigate. The public will very quickly come to believe that it’s picking and choosing for the wrong reasons. The KPK must investigate every allegation of corruption that is brought to it. It can’t be seen to be conveying the message to the public that this corruption matters and that corruption does not.
The KPK can’t have double standards on this. It will need more investigators to be able to process all complaints brought to it, because investigations require heavy manpower.
Then you have to look at education and prevention. Let me give you an example. Hong Kong’s ICAC has 1,300 personnel for a population of seven million , with 900 of those staff being in the investigation division. It’s obvious that the KPK needs more resources in its investigation division.
How can the KPK work independently while it has to answer to the government and being monitored by lawmakers?
Well, that doesn’t matter. The KPK’s role is clear. If it receives a complaint about an individual, it doesn’t matter what position that individual holds or the function he or she performs.
It doesn’t matter whether he or she is a member of parliament, a judge or a very senior government official.
It is a state institution but it needs to have a certain degree of independence and it needs to have operational law autonomy, which means that nobody is entitled to tell the KPK who to investigate and who not to investigate. If anybody tries to do that then the commissioners should tell them to go away.
The House is drafting a revision to the current law on the KPK, which suggests that the anti-graft body need not investigate small cases. What do you think?
That is a mistake. Members of the House are well informed and intelligent people but they are not experienced in fighting corruption. They must understand that it’s really important to implement a policy to investigate all corruption complaints, no matter how big or small.