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Jakarta Post

Massive conflict of interest

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, October 11, 2019   /   08:29 am
Massive conflict of interest Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) commissioner Rizal Djalil. (kompas.com/Sandro Gatra)

The sedate business world of an audit office would seem a somewhat unlikely place for party politics. But the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), supposed to be the only politically independent monitoring and auditing agency of the government budget and other public-sector finances, seems to have increasingly been connected to political and bureaucratic influence.

Four of the five new members of the BPK governing board, who were selected and recommended to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo by the House of Representatives on Sept. 25, are senior members of political parties. Two of them were House members when they joined the selection process.

A quirk to the political event was that the same day the House selected the five new governing board members, another sitting governing member, Rizal Djalil, who is a member of the National Mandate Party (PAN), was named a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in a case related to a drinking water project under the Public Works and Housing Ministry.

Also in the third week of September, the House, with the support of the President, swiftly enacted revisions of the KPK Law that essentially strip the anticorruption agency of many of its powers and render it ineffective. The last straw is that the House also selected a controversial police general as the new KPK chairman for the next four years starting December.

Then, after the 0ct. 1 inauguration of the new House members for 2019 to 2024, the public and mass media cried out again after learning that four of the five House leaders own many businesses or are affiliated to many companies and 262, or 45.5 percent, of the 575 new House members are businesspeople.

These political events should give us cause for concern due to the massive potential for conflicts of interest within the state budget deliberations at the House, the lawmaking process at the House, the monitoring and auditing of public sector finances and the anticorruption drive. Many surveys have found that a corrupt businessman-cum-politician is much greedier than a common civil servant who steals mostly for consumption. But politicians who own businesses never feel it is enough, as they do it to fill a ”bottomless-pit” of business financing needs.

First of all we should magnanimously admit that the government has steadily been internationally perceived as one of the most corrupt in the world. Now that five of the nine members of the BPK governing board are senior members of political parties, how could we be sure that the BPK would be able to execute its job independently of political influence. Yet more worrisome is that the BPK’s opinion on state losses related to corruption cases is one of the core, basic pieces of evidence used by the KPK prosecution in court.

The tendency for members of the BPK’s board to possess links to political parties does not sit comfortably with international standards stipulated in the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions’ (INTOSAI) Code of Ethics. The BPK should maintain both actual and perceived political independence, otherwise the people tend not to trust the government financial accountability and this negative perception would affect their sense of voluntary tax compliance.