The Jakarta Post
Last week’s arrest of United Development Party (PPP) chairman Muhammad “Romy” Romahurmuziy — who has since resigned from the post — for allegedly accepting bribes for promotions at the Religious Affairs Ministry shows once again the vulnerability of the bureaucracy to fraudulent practices, regardless of reforms aimed at transforming the public service sector into a merit-based system to realize clean government and good governance.
The fact that bribery still occurs today, not only in yesteryears when corruption, collusion and nepotism were the norm, indicates that internal control mechanisms that were meant to support reforms have hardly helped. In this latest case, the alleged bribery went undetected, likely due to acute resistance within the bureaucracy to the new merit system, in addition to trading in influence by a political bigwig like Romy, who has access to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, because the PPP is part of the ruling coalition.
Prior to the sting operation leading to Romy’s arrest, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has unveiled bribery in connection with job promotions in several regions. The modus operandi in those cases was identical, with certain officials paying tens or hundreds of millions of rupiah to win regional leaders’ favor and the desired posts. The bribes were mostly brokered by family members or people close to the leaders.
In January 2016, KPK investigators arrested then-Klaten regent Sri Hartini over bribery in the Central Java regency. The Semarang Corruption Court found Hartini guilty and sentenced her to 11 years of imprisonment in September 2016. The antigraft body arrested Taufiqurrahman, the regent of Nganjuk, East Java, in September 2017 and Sunjaya Purwadi Sastra, the regent of Cirebon, West Java, last November for similar abuse of power.
For sure, the failure of internal supervision to detect, let alone prevent, fraud within the bureaucracy both at the national and regional level is cause for concern. The government cannot simply rely on the KPK in upholding bureaucratic reforms, as the commission lacks the human resources needed to help the bureaucracy prevent graft and act against corrupt officials.
Internal control mechanisms are in place in the bureaucracy, namely in the form of the inspectorate division, on top of the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP) when it comes to the use of budget funds. But as we know, the inspectorate unit is toothless. Many even dub it a place for officials nearing the end of their career to preserve some pride.
The reason for the inspectors’ failure to live up to their name is the fact that they have no independence vis-à-vis regents, governors or whoever controls the bureaucracy. They may be people of impeccable integrity but seem helpless when their bosses decide to cover up irregularities.
In response to a series of KPK arrests of government officials, President Jokowi said he was aware of the ineffective internal control mechanism, but unless he initiates transformation of the inspectorate into an independent body, corrupt-minded officials will escape internal control.