The Jakarta Post
This was a busy year for the country’s antigraft campaign spearheaded by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
The KPK has investigated at least 178 corruption cases across the country involving 229 individuals this year, a sharp increase from 121 last year and 99 in 2016.
Lawmakers and regional councillors represented the largest number of individuals named suspects by the KPK this year, with 91, followed by businesspeople ( 50 ) and regional leaders ( 28 ).
In one of 2018’s biggest cases, the KPK charged 40 of the city’s 45 councillors with bribery related to the deliberation of the city budget — making it one of the widest-ranging corruption investigations in KPK history. It all started last year when the KPK investigated M. Arief Wicaksono, who at the time was Malang City Council speaker, for allegedly accepting bribes from a Malang administration official.
The KPK has also broken its own record by conducting 28 operations this year, mostly centering on bribery allegations, by catching suspected corruptors red-handed.
“While we only seized a small amount of money, each operation served as a starting point for us to uncover more cases or prosecute more suspects,” KPK deputy chairman Saut Situmorang said.
A case in point was the arrest of South Kalimantan’s Hulu Sungai Tengah regent, Abdul Latif, who was nabbed while allegedly accepting Rp 65 million (US$4,465) in bribes related to the construction of a state-owned hospital in January — the first operation that set off a series of arrests this year.
Months later, investigators found evidence that Abdul had allegedly laundered Rp 23 billion of his illicit money.
Bribery is one of the most prevalent cases handled by the KPK, with 151 cases being investigated this year, an increase from 93 last year.
It also managed to send high-profile suspects to prison, with the most notorious being former House of Representatives speaker Setya Novanto of the Golkar Party.
A court sentenced him in April to 15 years behind bars for playing a major role in the e-ID graft case and stripped him of his political rights, banning him from running for public office for five years after he has completed his sentence. Setya’s conviction ended his nearly year-long game of cat and mouse with the KPK.
But its probe into corrupt politicians did not stop at Setya.
Three months after Setya’s conviction, the KPK caught Golkar lawmaker Eni Saragih red-handed allegedly accepting bribes from a businessman in relation to a coal-powered power plant project in Riau — known as PLTU Riau-1 — which is part of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s flagship 35,000 megawatt electricity procurement program.
In August, former social affairs minister and Golkar politician Idrus Marham resigned from the Cabinet after being named a suspect in the same case, which turned out to be the first graft case to have rocked Jokowi’s inner circle.
The KPK also found evidence that Eni, who at the time was the treasurer of Golkar’s extraordinary national congress (Munaslub) in December 2017, had allegedly asked businessman Johannes Budisutrisno Kotjo for money to fund the Munaslub. Golkar was quick to deny the allegations.
But Eni’s case was just one example this year in which the KPK suspected politicians of asking businesspeople to illegally fund their political activities.
It has been pushing political parties to initiate reform by adopting an integrity system to prevent their members from embarking on corrupt practices and improve party financial transparency particularly after the 2018 simultaneous regional elections took place and as the 2019 general election draws near.
While many political parties have expressed their support for the system that was developed by the KPK, experts continued to cast doubts given that lawmakers were reluctant to carry out the radical measure by revising the 2011 law on political parties.
Even the General Elections Commission’s (KPU) attempts to ban former corruption convicts from contesting the 2019 legislative election have been met with opposition from political parties and lawmakers, as well as the Supreme Court — which annulled a KPU regulation to ban former graft convicts from taking part in the race.
Following the ruling, 12 former graft convicts are now aiming for a spot in provincial councils, while 26 others are running for city and regional council seats in April.
“It needs the President to push for total reform with regards to political and law enforcement, including pushing political parties to implement the integrity system,” said Dadang Trisasongko of Transparency International Indonesia.
But 2018 was not necessarily a tough year for the antigraft campaign.
The KPK reached a new milestone in taking on corporate crime when prosecutors took the first corporation — publicly listed construction company PT Duta Graha Indah which had changed its name to PT Nusa Konstruksi Enjiniring — to court for alleged bid-rigging in relation to the construction of a hospital in Bali.
This year also marked the return of KPK senior investigator Novel Baswedan who was hospitalized after acid was thrown in his face by unidentified assailants. And although the mastermind behind the attack remains a mystery, his return his given colleagues at the KPK a significant morale boost.
Efforts to curb corruption also came from Jokowi who signed a regulation in October to pay informants up to Rp 200 million to blow the whistle on people suspected of graft. “We want people’s participation in the prevention and eradication of corruption,” the President said at the time.
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Dec. 26, 2018, with the title "2018, busy year for KPK".