The Jakarta Post
The Indonesian Anticorruption Community (MAKI) has asked the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to investigate the government’s preemployment card program, particularly the lack of transparency in its selection of private-sector partners.
“The appointment of the partners was allegedly conducted without a ‘beauty contest’ [competitive applications and bidding], and it did not meet the requirements of administrative and technical qualifications because there was no previous announcement of the requirements themselves,” MAKI coordinator Boyamin Bin Saiman said in a statement on Monday.
In March, the government announced that it had appointed eight digital platforms as partners in the preemployment card program – an initiative that combines cash aid and training subsidies for unemployed workers to augment the social safety net during the COVID-19 crisis.
The partners announced were the Manpower Ministry, e-commerce platforms Tokopedia and Bukalapak, as well as online learning platforms Ruangguru, Pintaria, Sekolahmu, Pijarmahir and MauBelajarApa.
The e-commerce platforms were responsible for the program’s marketing and sales, while the learning platforms provided the training courses – ranging from marketing to fishing – intended to develop the skills of people laid off as a result of the pandemic.
Critics have criticized the partner-selection process as opaque, with no open call for applicants or transparent selection criteria.
“The appointment is also suspected of violating the provisions in the form of unfair business competition or monopoly,” Boyamin said.
MAKI submitted the request for the investigation, along with supporting documents, to the KPK on Monday.
Boyamin said the cost per course – between Rp 200,000 (US$13.23) and Rp 1 million – was too expensive when compared to the salaries of school teachers and college lecturers and the production cost of the course materials.
“It is also way more expensive than other training courses available on YouTube or those searchable on Google, which are free and only require an internet plan,” he said.
Boyamin cited Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) researcher Nailul Huda, who said that the partners could potentially reap Rp 3.7 trillion in profit – Rp 457 billion each.
With the potential profits, he estimated the companies would get 66 percent profit from the course fees, higher than the 20 percent profit limit allowed by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) and the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP).
The preemployment card program’s stated goal is to help workers and small business owners hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. It seeks to distribute Rp 20 trillion in incentives from the 2020 state budget to 5.6 million eligible recipients.
About 9 million candidates have applied for the program since its launch on April 11. More than 2.2 million people have lost their jobs as of April 20 as a result of the health crisis.
This is not the program’s first brush with controversy. The appointment of Ruangguru – a startup owned by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's then-expert staffer Adamas Belva Syah Devara – as a private-sector partner led to Adamas’ resignation on April 21.
Negative sentiment has also plagued the program, with 81 percent of the 38,000 online discussions of the program containing keywords such as “conflict of interest” and “leaked budget”, according to Indef research between March 27 and April 25.
Panji Ruky, the preemployment card program’s management director of communications, however, claimed the partner-selection process was conducted fairly, without any corruption.
Perbanas Institute economist Piter Abdullah has also questioned the program’s effectiveness because of the lack of hiring during the outbreak, noting that people needed cash assistance more.
KPK acting spokesperson Ali Fikri said on Tuesday that the antigraft body would look into the information provided by MAKI before deciding whether to take further action.
"If our analysis finds an indication of potential criminal practice, then there will be a possibility that the KPK will launch an [investigation] into the case," he said as quoted by kompas.com.