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Jakarta Post

National integrity, the next step of the antigraft fight

  • Eiji Oyamada

    The Jakarta Post

Kyoto   /   Wed, April 1, 2015   /  07:01 am
National integrity, the next step of the antigraft fight

Since its establishment in 2003, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) won public trust through increased performance in tackling various large-scale corruption cases and government collusion. This achievement was attributed to its efficient functioning within its wide range of responsibilities and strong authority, as well as being an independent body with a one-channel reporting system resulting in minimal politicization.

Furthermore, having staff with high integrity and good performance has been made possible with a high remuneration salary system, the introduction of a merit system and transparency in recruitment. The key to success in sustaining a 100 percent conviction rate is found in the active overseas collaboration and a joint monitoring system for investigation and prosecution.

The main factor for sustainable and successful KPK activities is public trust, won through the multiple achievements of prosecuting high-ranking officials and politicians, having a zero-tolerance policy and conducting anticorruption education and awareness-building programs with citizens and civil society.

This writer has studied many anticorruption agencies (ACA) in a number of countries and has found a low success rate resulting from a lack of these activities, leading to low public trust and a government without a functional organization, consequently leading to total abolishment, merger with another organization, or limited use for political matters.

This writer believes in the importance of several actions by the KPK over the past 12 years. First, was the removal of past presumptions. The expectations of international society were contrary to the citizens, where overseas donors had a bleak outlook for the KPK'€™s future, considering its establishment as a short-term measure with limited potential, especially after the establishment and abolishment of five previous anticorruption institutions.

Furthermore, most ACA in the world have been unsuccessful because of their limited authority and have been considered toothless agencies with excessive politicization and a lack of experts. Today, the KPK is said to have successfully overcome the negative image and wrong presumptions of such agencies.

Next is the transition in the mindset of the citizens from '€œcorruption being a culture'€ to '€œcorruption being a crime'€. When this writer first stayed in Indonesia after the collapse of the Soeharto administration, corruption was mostly considered by the ordinary people to be part of the culture, which could not be altered, and any anticorruption efforts would be put to waste. However, through the efforts of the KPK, the idea that corruption is a crime was firmly planted in the minds of the citizens.

In parallel, the change in mindset is clearly seen in the bribe takers, from '€œcorruption being low risk, high reward'€ to '€œcorruption being high risk, low reward'€. Expectations about the KPK by citizens are high. While watching over KPK activities, public trust and support increased and citizens believe now is the right time to eradicate corruption, the KPK possibly being considered as the only crusader.

The KPK did not tackle corruption scandals alone, but took the stance to eradicate corruption through a positive collaboration with civil society, where the citizens and civil society take on the role as a watchdog. This mutual trust between the ACA and civil society and vice versa is considered a very rare case in the world.

As with other developing countries, the current level of governance in Indonesia is still low. However, the KPK'€™s activities have surprisingly been progressing, said to be a result of good governance strategies within the organization with minimal support by donors, after receiving a certain level of technical support and operating institutional management through self-help efforts, a trend that differs with antigraft agencies of other developing countries.

There are certainly many issues and challenges faced by the KPK, such as a limitation of cases handled because of the heavy workload and the limited number of investigators, prosecutors and staff. In addition to a lack of human resources, issues and challenges include immense political pressure from anti-KPK forces, an exclusion from dealing with private companies and military corruption, a weakening of the corruption courts and weak commitment of support from the new President, among others.

With the KPK handling a given number of big corruption cases per year, there are new corruption groups that have consequently emerged. Furthermore, the long-lasting war involving the KPK and the public versus the police and the Attorney General'€™s Office and politicians remains a big challenge for the KPK.

Next on the KPK'€™s agenda would be to build a national integrity system (NIS). An NIS is a system designed to be implemented nationally to eradicate corruption comprehensively, by taking into account all related pillars. The KPK has already committed to become an independent agency and to serve as a trigger mechanism as stipulated in Indonesia'€™s anticorruption law to implement the NIS. The KPK will play a strategic role in pioneering the establishment of an integrity system at the national level, coordinating with other agencies and establishing mechanisms to control fraud. This writer is keen to learn what steps the KPK has achieved so far.

It can be said that the KPK won public trust and the international society evaluates Indonesia as a country that has shifted from being the '€œmost corrupt country in the world'€ to the '€œmost praised country in the world'€ because of the anticorruption campaign, giving the country pride in its KPK.

On the other hand, the public should refrain from excessive expectations.

In an interview with this writer, suspended KPK commissioner Bambang Widjojanto expressed concern that the higher the KPK performance, the higher the public expectations, leading to continuous pressure on the KPK to refrain from mistakes in handling cases, in order to avoid immediate loss of public trust. It is, moreover, indispensable for citizens to support creating a foundation for sustainable KPK activities, for the civil society to fully support the eradication of corruption by politicians, including offenses by officials and the President.

The activities and role of the KPK currently make it a new role model for anticorruption agencies worldwide, particularly in developing countries, starting to replace those in Hong Kong and Singapore. The world is closely watching the development of this role model with high anticipation of its contribution to the study of corruption in the world.

Yet Indonesia is the world'€™s second highest country in terms of the number of corruption cases, following China. Although the country will not return to the corruption levels found during the Soeharto era, the country must always remain attentive to avoid a recurrence.

The long-term objective is not just to have a positive evaluation of KPK activities, but for Indonesia to be valued as a country free from corruption by the international community. In the next step, expectations would be to grasp the state of the country'€™s national integrity and draw up new strategies.

The writer is a professor at the Graduate School of Global Studies, Doshisha University, Kyoto, whose work included Anti-Corruption Measures the Japanese Way: Prevention Matters and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo'€™s
Anti-Corruption Strategy in the Philippines: An Evaluation.

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