Urgency of COVID-19 exacerbates corruption risk in Indonesia, says deputy chair of anti-graft commission

JAKARTA: The urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia, particularly in phrases of procuring medical provides and rolling out social help packages, has heightened the risk of corruption, mentioned a deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission.

In an unique interview with CNA, Mr Nurul Ghufron famous that COVID-19 has prompted the federal government to loosen laws and bypass procedures in order to obtain well being tools shortly in addition to to roll out incentives and social support in a well timed method.

“Even when the regulations and procedures were in place, corruption practices were bound to happen. We can imagine what happens if they are loosened. The risk of corruption is higher today because there are people who try to take advantage of loosened regulations,” he mentioned on Mar 5. 

As some authorities officers and public employees have been allowed to do business from home throughout the pandemic, this has additionally made supervision and monitoring harder, mentioned Mr Ghufron who’s among the many 4 deputy chairman of the commission.

The commission, higher identified by its Indonesian acronym KPK, arrested then-social affairs minister Juliari Batubara on Dec 6 for allegedly receiving 17 billion rupiah (US$1.18 million) in bribes from a number of firms in trade for naming them as contractors in the ministry’s social support distribution initiatives to assist 20 million households.

Indonesia Minister Arrested

Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo, escorted by safety officers, walks after a press convention on the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) workplace in Jakarta, Indonesia on Nov 26, 2020. (Photo: AP)

The KPK has additionally made different high-profile arrests in the previous 12 months, together with then-fisheries minister Edhy Prabowo and the governor of South Sulawesi, Nurdin Abdullah for separate instances of bribery. Mr Abdullah was the 2017 recipient of the celebrated Bung Hatta Anti Corruption Award.    

READ: Indonesia’s new Cabinet and the political transformation of Joko Widodo – a commentary


Mr Ghufrom mentioned that the pandemic shouldn’t be the trigger of corruption in Indonesia. It merely worsened the scenario, he mentioned.

“Most corruption cases in Indonesia are related to procurement and embezzlement of state coffers. One key factor why this keeps occurring is because our databases are in a mess. Even before the pandemic, the databases were messy,” the graft buster mentioned

“Various ministries have different social aid distribution programmes for affected workers and the poor. But there is no structured and integrated database on who is eligible to receive them. This causes some people to be eligible for two or three different programmes from different ministries. But there are also people who are not eligible for any kind of aid from the government.

“The absence of a structured and integrated database of potential recipients makes social aid distribution in Indonesia prone to manipulation and corruption,” he mentioned.

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Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputy chairman Nurul Ghufron (Photo: Nivell Rayda) 

Mr Batubara shouldn’t be the primary Indonesian social affairs minister to be arrested for corruption. In 2011, former minister Bachtiar Chamsyah was discovered responsible of corruption associated to a number of of the ministry’s group empowerment programmes which price the state 33.7 billion rupiah in losses. He was sentenced to twenty months in jail.

Additionally, former social affairs minister Idrus Marham was sentenced to jail for 2 years in 2018 for receiving bribes, though his case was related to his position as a secretary-general of Golkar, one of Indonesia’s greatest political events.

READ: Indonesia’s new omnibus law no silver bullet for spurring investments, say experts   

Mr Ghufron mentioned it will be significant for the federal government to make use of individuals of excessive integrity for strategic posts.  

“There have been improvements in our procurement system so that corruption is limited if not eliminated. There is now more transparency through the use of an electronic bidding process. But the people running the system are human. Manipulation can still occur before a tender process begins and data is inputted into the system,” he defined.


Mr Ghufron mentioned the KPK has been tightly monitoring authorities initiatives because the pandemic started.  

“The KPK and the Supreme Audit Agency have been scrutinising each ministry’s social aid programmes. A ministry can claim that it has distributed aid to 10 million people. We want to see who these 10 million are,” he mentioned.

“We scrutinise each programme, be sure that they’re achieved for the correct causes, with clear goal recipients, clear and measurable objectives and procedures so there isn’t any manipulation or misuse.”

All ministries and institutions are required to consult KPK when it comes to strategic programmes and those involving large sums of money, he said.

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The headquarters of KPK, Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission, in Jakarta. (Photo: Nivell Rayda)

Mr Ghufron mentioned the KPK has requested a number of ministries to assessment programmes which might be deemed liable to manipulation and corruption. The commission has additionally assigned some of its officers to oversee the implementation of varied authorities programmes.

“We have done all we can to minimise the risk of corruption and to monitor the programmes’ implementation. Even then, there are people who are brazen enough to still commit acts of corruption,” he mentioned when requested about Mr Batubara’s case.

“When an act of corruption occurs, the KPK will no longer deploy our graft prevention supervisors. We will deploy our criminal investigators. We have explained the risk. We have reminded them about the law. If they break the law, we will arrest them,” he said.


The KPK has arrested 13 ministers because the unbiased legislation enforcement company was established in 2003.

Mr Batubara was the fourth minister serving below President Joko Widodo to be arrested by the KPK. The different three had been Mr Prabowo, Mr Batubara’s predecessor Mr Marham and former youth and sports activities minister Imam Nahrawi.

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The emblem of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) at its headquarters in Jakarta. (Photo: Nivell Rayda) 

The president, popularly identified by his nickname Jokowi, was elected partly primarily based on his dedication to an anti-corruption drive. He has additionally promised to instill integrity and the spirit of exhausting work via his so-called “mental revolution” programme.

Mr Ghufron famous that the president was very upset when Mr Batubara was arrested.

“Jokowi is committed to eradicating corruption, running a clean government and conducting bureaucratic reform. This commitment is shown by his speeches and addresses. He always reminded his men that every rupiah spent must be enjoyed by the people and not embezzled for personal gains,” the KPK deputy mentioned.

“He also welcomed the KPK to scrutinise the government’s programmes and policies. What matters the most is that when the KPK came to arrest one of his men, one of his cabinet members, he never intervened or made it difficult for us.”

Mr Ghufron additionally famous the identical dedication with Mr Batubara’s successor, the present minister for social affairs, Tri Rismaharini.

“Risma has come to our office to meet us. She wanted to know how she can minimise the risk of corruption at her ministry. The ministry is now formulating ways to create a better database of potential recipients, how social aid is supposed to be distributed while minimising the risk of manipulation and corruption,” he mentioned.

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