Andi Taufan Garuda Putra, a special staff member for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, is being slammed for asking district heads across Indonesia to support a COVID-19 relief program led by PT Amartha Mikro Fintek, a company that he owns.
In a letter sent to local leaders dated April 1, the 32-year-old staffer — appointed by the President to reflect the ideals of millennials — said his company had joined the Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Ministry’s COVID-19 Village Volunteer program to raise awareness about the disease, as well as to collect information on how much personal protective equipment is needed at community health centers (Puskesmas).
“Therefore, we ask that you [district heads] and related village officials support the program to ensure its success,” said the letter, which was printed on paper bearing the Cabinet Secretary’s letterhead.
Legal expert Feri Amsari criticized the letter, saying that the President's special staffer did not have the authority to decide and appoint a company for COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
“There is a clear conflict of interest here as he is also the founder and CEO of the company,” he said. “This is not only embarrassing for the President, but it also gives the impression that our country is playing around in the middle of a disaster.”
The letter drew more criticism from social media users, activists and politicians.
“Jokowi’s special staffer, Andi Taufan Garuda Putra, sent a letter with the Cabinet Secretary letterhead, asking all district heads in Indonesia to support PT Amartha Mikro Fintek [in the efforts to] mitigate COVID-19. But he himself is the CEO of PT Amartha. How about that?” @soeyoto1 tweeted.
Staf Khusus Presiden Jokowi, Andi Taufan Garuda Putra mengirim surat— S0EY0T0 (@soeyoto1) April 14, 2020
"berkop Sekretariat Kabinet"
kepada camat di seluruh Indonesia untuk mendukung PT Amartha Mikro Fintek (Amartha) menanggulangi Covid19
Sedang dia sendiri CEO PT Amarta
Trus piye Jal?https://t.co/vvNgyKEXJN
Meanwhile, human rights activist Andreas Harsono tweeted: “I am sure that Harvard teaches 'conflicts of interest' on campus. How could a presidential staffer, also a Harvard graduate, in Jakarta use the Palace to make sure his own company’s service is being used nationwide?”
I am sure @Harvard teaches "conflict of interests" in the campus. How could a President @jokowi staff, also a Harvard graduate, in Jakarta uses the palace to make sure his own company's service is being used nationwide? #Stafsus #COVID19indonesia https://t.co/nTqdBdEg84— Andreas Harsono (@andreasharsono) April 14, 2020
Democratic Party politician Abdullah Rasyid jumped in, tweeting: “When the people are screaming [for help], Jokowi's special staffer instructed district heads to involve his company [Amartha].
“This action is akin to that of a scalper and is borderline abuse of power. The President should fire him immediately as he is an embarrassment to the Palace.”
Disaat Rakyat Menjerit, Staffsus @jokowi instruksikan Camat agar libatkan perusahaannya (AMARTHA). Tindakan Stafsus rasa Calo ini sudah katagori ABUSE OF POWER. Presiden harus sgera pecat, memalukan istana #JkwKKN pic.twitter.com/sdmklJlscf— Abdullah Rasyid (@RasyidDemokrat) April 14, 2020
Andi has since revoked the letter and issued an apology on Tuesday. He claimed the letter was aimed at supporting the village volunteer program and was done “purely for humanitarian reasons” without using state or regional budgets.
“My intention was to do something good and as quickly [as possible] to help prevent and overcome COVID-19 in the villages, which is through direct support by Amartha field teams under my leadership,” Andi said in a statement on Tuesday.
In November, Jokowi appointed Andi and six other “millennials” aged between 23 and 36 years old as his presidential expert staff members, whose task is to advise the President on various subjects, including education, entrepreneurship, the creative industry, disabled rights and religious tolerance.