Govt moves to prevent misuse of social aid funds ahead of polls
The Jakarta Post
President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono has said there needs to be increased supervision of social aid spending ahead of the April 9 legislative election due to fears it could be misused for political purposes.
The president's statement came after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) announced last week it had found evidence of irregularities in the disbursement of social aid funds, which are currently managed by different ministries.
This year, the government has allocated a total of Rp 91.8 trillion (US$8.07 billion) of social aid funds to be distributed among at least 15 ministries, many of which are led by members of political parties in the ruling coalition.
The figure is almost double the Rp 56 trillion allocated in the government's initial budget plan. In contrast, the allocation for capital expenditure, which comprises funds for infrastructure projects, meanwhile, has been reduced by about Rp 48 trillion to Rp 184 trillion, compared to Rp 232 trillion in the government's initial budget plan.
'The President has instructed the Finance Ministry, the Home Ministry and the BPKP [Finance and Development Comptroller] to work with the KPK [to deal with the issue],' Finance Minister Chatib Basri told a press conference after a plenary Cabinet meeting at the Presidential Office on Tuesday.
Around Rp 72 trillion, or 86 percent of the total Rp 91.8 trillion of the social aid funds is allocated for fixed-programs, such as healthcare and school operational assistance funds (BOS), microcredit programs targeted to impoverished regions or the Mandiri National Community Empowerment Program (PNPM Mandiri) and Cash Assistance for Poor Students (BSM), according to Chatib. Meanwhile, the rest is for what he called as 'ad-hoc funds' which are prone to misuse, such as the emergency funds used by governors during a disaster.
'We will likely focus on funds for non-program [allocations] or the ad-hoc funds that are substitutable to violations,' he said, adding that he would hold a meeting with the KPK regarding its recommendation that all social aid funds be managed under the Social Affairs Ministry.
'We must consider the capacity of the ministry.'
In his speech prior to the Cabinet meeting, President also called on the National Police to ensure the security of election candidates amid rumors that the safety of a certain presidential candidate is now under threat.
It is unclear who the politician Yudhoyono was referring to, though many speculated that he was commenting on reports that Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) presidential candidate Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo had been receiving death threats.
'I have received official information that there are political figures who are concerned about someone's safety,' Yudhoyono said. 'I do not take this issue lightly. Therefore, the country and the police should provide protection to curb such speculation'
'Politics is hard and sometimes evil,' he added.
National Police chief Gen. Sutarman said his men were ready to protect all presidential candidates as well as legislative candidates. 'In principle, we will conduct proportional safety measures for all candidates, such as Pak Ical, Pak Jokowi, Pak Prabowo and Pak Wiranto,' he said.
Although the KPU [General Elections Commission] has yet to officially name the candidates, they have been declared to the public, so their safety is our responsibility,' Sutarman said at the Presidential Office.
National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Lt. Gen. (ret.) Marciano
Norman has said his office had been gathering information on potential threats that could disrupt the upcoming election, including rallies and intimidation initiated by radicals, separatists and terror groups.
Marciano also dismissed allegations that officials from his agency were allegedly involved in spying operations on a number of politicians, including Jokowi.
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