A Budget Fiasco

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Close oversight in the drawing up of the Capital’s budget also shows the biggest benefit of democracy: a control mechanism that will only work properly if there is strong opposition.

    It is truly saddening that the Jakarta budget is still being produced with so many problems – including the notorious procurement of Aica-Aibon glue. This is despite the fact that according to the procedure, the proposed regional budget is drawn up in 46 stages: from preparation to the passing of a bylaw and proposed gubernatorial regulation. Among the intervening stages are deliberations of the development plan and public consultation before the results are included in the work plan.

    Since the administration of Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in 2015, Jakarta has used an electronic budgeting (e-budgeting) system. This was produced by a consultant from Surabaya named Gagat Sidi Wahono, who apparently also put together the first stage of a similar system in that city. The use of this system caused problems between the governor and the Surabaya Provincial Legislative Council, which used its right to institute an inquiry to question the administration’s policy. However, the Corruption Eradication Commission called the system one of the best in Indonesia.

    The Jakarta administration published the proposed budget known as the Budgeting General Policy – Provisional Budgeting Priority Ceiling (KUA-PPAS) on the provincial website. At this stage, the public could still see the budget produced as a result of consultations and drawn up in stages from the neighborhood level, although it was not yet final. While the planned budget was being discussed by the administration and the City Council, the public could examine it carefully to look for inappropriate programs. The result of the discussions between the City Council and the administration was then uploaded to the provincial website – the public could then compare it with the initial draft.

    This publication on the provincial Internet site continued until 2018 – the first year of Anies’s administration – but was changed the next year, when the budget was only published after the discussions between the administration and the City Council. This year, the draft has not been published at all. Anies’ justification for this is that publication could cause conflict. Meanwhile, the programs will still be changed. Anies also claimed he was drawing a new system that would be more far more transparent, but which would only be used to draw up budgets from 2021. It seems that this new system will have an alarm that will sound if there is improper budgeting funding.

    But Anies’ decision turned out to be a mistake. The ‘conflict’ did not originate from mistakes in the e-budgeting system but was a consequence of the arbitrary way in which the budget was drawn up. This was confirmed by the resignation of the head of the Regional Development Planning Agency Sri Mahendra Satria Wirawan, who felt he had failed to produce a good budget. In a meeting, the video of which was subsequently published on social media, the governor also discovered irregularities in the planned budget drawn up by his subordinates. Anies should have ordered his staff to examine it carefully from the outset so that the published proposed budget was in good shape.

    Anies should not blame the system used by his administration. No matter what, he has the highest responsibility in drawing up the Jakarta provincial budget. His job is to ensure that the proposed budget contains programs that are needed by the people that are of an appropriate size, and that there are no items included for particular interests. In order to achieve this, he needs to ensure the widest possible public participation. Anies also needs to fire any of his subordinates proved to have arbitrarily included markup budget items.

    The political actions taken by the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) in the Jakarta Legislative Council deserve respect. The party took very seriously the conduct of its oversight function of the performance of the Jakarta administration in drawing up the budget. In the past, Legislative Council members often included programs at the requests of certain people. They were able to sneak in projects that had been ‘bought’ by business groups they were affiliated with. Similar practices occur in other regions, including the House of Representatives when drawing up the State Budget.

    On a wider scale, the move by the PSI City Council members shows that a strong legislative body is very important to oversee the work of the government. With strong opposition, the government will be more introspective. Ultimately it will be the people that reap the benefits.

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