Bunyamin Permana, a Center for Democracy and Transparency (CDT) staffer showed off his office on the ground floor of the Juanda apartment in Central Jakarta one afternoon over the weekend.
The office comprising two rooms looked modest, equipped with only two personal computers, a photocopy machine and few other pieces of office furniture.
On the wall were several pictures of Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in his campaign period and CDT banners.
“Our service is still closed. We will open again next Monday,” he said.
Bunyamin was referring to the Center’s social work that includes helping Jakartans with legal, education and health problems. The CDT, a non-governmental organization (NGO), established after Ahok was elected as a House of Representatives’ member, is also known as the Ahok Center.
Bunyamin said the formal name of the NGO, funded personally by Basuki, or Ahok, was difficult to remember, hence people called it the Ahok Center, especially when the headquarters was altered into a campaign team office during the gubernatorial election last year.
The so-called Ahok Center, founded in 2008, is focused on helping Basuki channel his personal donations to the poor. However, after he became deputy governor, some staffers of the center became members of his expert staff at City Hall, tasked to take care of administration matters as well as being his personal assistants in managing his personal donations to Jakartans.
Ahok Center member Natanael T Oppusunggu said on Saturday that Ahok deployed some non-civil servants from the center to his office to take care of people who asked for help.
“We focus on helping pak Ahok in channeling his donations to people who need education, health and legal assistance,” he said.
Natanael, who has been working with Basuki for 16 years, said he and the team had helped at least 2,000 people since the organization was founded.
“The operational cost of the organization is funded by Ahok’s personal money,” he said.
Natanael explained that when people personally came to Basuki to ask for social assistance, he would order his personal staffers to survey and verify those who requested help and whether they really needed it or not.
“Our job ranges from helping to pay for private school tuition and medical bills to redeeming school certificates,” he said, adding that Basuki had been doing such social work since he was a businessman.
Natanael said if needed, sometimes Ahok Center members also helped monitor the process of the city administration’s program, including monitoring and managing aid to flood victims who occupied Marunda low-cost apartments in North Jakarta through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.
“There were only two Social Affairs Agency officials who had to take care of hundreds of items at the apartments at that time. We offered to help monitor, so the distribution would go smoothly,” he said.
The Ahok Center came into the spotlight when it appeared in the CSR program report released by the Jakarta Finance Management Body (BPKD) on Wednesday. Questions were raised about the potential of the center to abuse city funds for Basuki’s popularity.
The report said 18 city-owned companies and private firms had cooperated with the Ahok Center in distributing televisions, refrigerators, gas cylinders, and wooden furniture to refurbish the Marunda apartments in North Jakarta for the flood victims.
Basuki, who was asked to confirm the news, insisted said that the Ahok Center never cooperated with those firms to receive the CSR assistance, including the one for flood victims in the Marunda apartments.
“The organization members only helped monitor and manage the aid. Many other volunteers also helped,” he said.
After Basuki commented on the matter, the related agencies rectified the report, saying that the Ahok Center only helped with monitoring the distribution.
One private firm that channeled its donations to Marunda apartments, insurance company PT Asuransi Jasindo, confirmed that Ahok Center members helped coordinate and manage the donations.
“We sent the donations straight to the apartment complex and we also observed the units that received the aid,” she said in an email.
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