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Jakarta Post

Breaking illusion of corruption eradication

  • Hendi Yogi Prabowo

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, March 15, 2016   /  09:27 am

Based on Transparency International'€™s Corruption Perception Index 2015, Indonesia has made significant progress in its efforts to fight corruption. In the 2015 index, Indonesia'€™s rank rose to 88th from 107th in the previous year.

Despite the improvement, many believe that corruption in Indonesia is still as pervasive as ever. One major indicator of this is the alleged continuous weakening of the nation'€™s anticorruption agency, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

For example, a number of lawmakers have tried to weaken the commission by proposing a bill that could potentially limit its power, such as the creation of an obligation to seek outside permission to conduct wiretapping.

Expressions of rejection for the revision of the 2002 KPK Law have come from various groups of scholars and professionals.

Recently, President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo and the House of Representatives agreed to postpone the revision of the law to spend more time promoting the revision points to society.

The debates over whether or not the law should be revised have been going on for some time now. Nevertheless, judging from how anticorruption movements are progressing, we should pay more attention to other things beyond simply punishing offenders.

In the past two months alone, several House members have been named suspects for corruption.

According to the KPK'€™s investigation data, over the past decade around 19 percent of corruption offenders under the agency'€™s investigation were members of central and regional legislative councils.

This has raised questions regarding the recruitment process for lawmakers in Indonesia, particularly related to their integrity and accountability. Also, the recent arrest of a Supreme Court staff member for graft has led many to believe that corruption may have even penetrated agencies that are supposed to be part of the anticorruption regime in the country.

Various strategies have been developed in Indonesia to curb the corruption problem, targeting improvements in multiple areas such as law enforcement collaboration, legal framework improvement, creating an accountable political system and creating a culture of integrity, just to name a few.

Interestingly, despite the frequent mentions of the word '€œculture'€ in these strategies, there does not seem to be a clear and systematic direction as to how we should achieve the objective of creating a culture of integrity.

Culture is essentially a way of thinking in a particular group, with memory as a main component. In organizational culture, generally memory can be divided into beliefs (knowledge, frames of reference, models, values, norms, etc.) and routines (standard operating procedures, managerial and technical systems, capabilities, information-sharing mechanisms, etc.).

Whereas organizational routines can be identified relatively easily, organizational beliefs are more subtle and thus require observers to look deeper into human interactions within a group of people.

Based on the KPK'€™s investigation data, around 10 percent of corruption offenders in the past decade were former mayors or vice mayors and former regents or vice regents.

They were believed to be responsible for the high corruption risk in their former jurisdictions.

The so-called '€œcorruption normalization'€ process is often initiated by corrupt leadership figures to impose their own beliefs on their subordinates, which will lead to changes in their way of thinking regarding corruption.

Reversing the effects of this is a task requiring Herculean effort and not many have succeeded in it. In fact, only a handful of countries in the world have managed to successfully carry out this task, Hong Kong and Singapore being two of them.

To reverse the effects of corruption normalization, an organization needs to undergo a so-called '€œunlearning'€ process in an effort to forget its usual way of doing something so it can learn a new and better way.

Such a process is often started by the emergence of a drive to change in the form of anxiety from external or internal sources.

Investigation and prosecution by authorities such as the KPK is an example of externally generated anxiety that may force an organization'€™s members to drastically change the way they do things (changing their beliefs and routines).

On the other hand, many experts argue that internally generated anxiety (e.g. from leadership figures) serves a better purpose in preventing the failure of an organization by systematically and extensively changing its mindset to reject any ideas of corruption before they materialize.

The current mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, is an example of a leadership figure who knows
how to effectively create anxiety for her subordinates to perform their duties with accountability and integrity.

Many experts believe that the best form of unlearning is one with a high rate of change in both beliefs and routines. This type of unlearning must be supported by strong leadership figures with strong obsession to accountability and integrity who know exactly how to change their organizations'€™ beliefs and routines.

Changing routines is relatively straightforward as it primarily consists of reviews and revisions of documents. Changing beliefs, on the other hand, requires direct interactions and communication between leaders and followers and thus may take longer to complete.

Referring to Risma'€™s leadership in Surabaya, for example, by changing how things are done in her administration (e.g. e-procurement) through personal communication and by setting good examples for her subordinates, she has gradually changed their beliefs in relation to accountability and integrity.

These should have been adopted nationally to ensure that all the resources spent for developing and implementing anticorruption strategies will actually result in a decrease of corruption in the country.

When Indonesia has a clear strategy on how to conduct systematic organizational unlearning in both public and private institutions, we will have a stronger anticorruption regime.

The writer is the director of the Center for Forensic Accounting Studies at the Islamic University of Indonesia, Yogyakarta.

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