Wednesday, 20 November 2019

The Worrying State of State Auditors

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta -  The selection of members of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) for the 2019-2024 period shows the betrayal of the Constitution, which states that state finances shall be managed in a responsible fashion for the welfare of the people. The selection process that should spur on improvements to the quality and credibility of the state auditors has in fact been used to share out power between the political parties. Law No. 15/2006 on the BPK must immediately be revised to end this misuse of authority by the House of Representatives (DPR).

    The selection and ratification of members of the BPK last week showed the DPR acting in a way to make use of the weakness of the law to further its interests. Four of the five newly selected members are former legislators, namely Gerindra Party politician Pius Lustrilanang, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Daniel Lumban Tobing, Golkar Party politician Harry Azhar Azis and Democrat Party politician Achsanul Qosasi. Only one non-party candidate was selected, Hendra Susanto, the BPK internal auditor.

    This only reinforces the impression that the BPK is nothing more than a refuge for Senayan politicians. Pius and Daniel were not awarded DPR seats in April’s legislative election. Harry and Achsanul, the two incumbents who were re-selected, were BPK officials from the previous period, having been defeated in the 2014 election. And with this selection process, five of the nine leadership positions are now occupied by former legislators.

    Since the beginning of July, the selection process of BPK members has seemed rather irregular. Three days after registration of candidates ended, the selection committee from the DPR Finance Commission removed almost half of the 64 candidates from the list - including 28 academics auditors and professional accountants - based entirely on its assessment of the applicants' documentation. This entire process happened behind closed doors, without public scrutiny. The aroma of conflicts of interest strengthened because the DPR then gave the green light to a number of politicians of dubious competence.

    The 1945 Constitution gives the DPR full authority to select members of the BPK. The problem is, in the last 13 years, the BPK Law that interprets this authority has many weaknesses. This law does not detail the selection mechanism that ensures the DPR discharges its authority in a way that is transparent and accountable. It also only states that members of the BPK are selected by the DPR taking into consideration the views of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).

    The wide-ranging power of the DPR in the selection of the BPK membership is clearly a threat to the independence of the agency, which is also guaranteed under the constitution. The perpetual dominance of politicians in the body of the BPK continues to undermine the dignity of the agency, which is now hanging in the balance as a result of the number of cases involving the buying and selling of audit results.

    The most recent case involved a member of the BPK for the 2014-2019 period, Rizal Djalil. Last week the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named the former National Mandate Party (PAN) politician a suspect in the alleged bribery in relation to the audit of the Development Directorate of the Drinking Water Supply System at the public works and housing ministry.

    Although some of its members are old faces, the ball is now in the hands of the 2019-2024 DPR members who will be inaugurated this week. They must immediately discuss the draft revision of the BPK Law, which ground to a halt a year ago despite it being on the 2019 Priority National Legislation Program. The proposal from the government that the selection of BPK members is carried out by an independent selection committee – before a final decision from the DPR – should be realized in order to guarantee transparency. If the DPR continues to ignore the importance of the revision of this law, it will only provide further evidence that the house wishes to weaken the BPK as the state financial oversight body. It has only recently declawed the KPK by removing some of its authority. The people of Indonesia should challenge this betrayal.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine