TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Anies Baswedan unfolded two sheets of papers containing excerpts of the 2017 Jakarta provincial government budget (APBD) which offered the information regarding the purchase of chalkboard erasers for over 600,000 students in Jakarta within a period of 12 months at a staggering cost: Rp53 billion. “Did we buy all of that at the end? No. In reality, the money is to pay employees’ honorariums,” he told Tempo on Friday, November 8, while occasionally pointing out at the numbers in the papers.
Then the governor gave examples of loopholes in the Jakarta’s electronic budgeting (e-budgeting) system. He said when Rp53 billion was set as an Education Operational Assistance fund, there was no entry yet in the catalog to describe the fund’s use. So, the data-entry clerk instead filed it as chalkboard erasers. “The bottom line is that Rp53 billion was already recorded. Later after discussions, the real (plan) will be input,” Anies said.
The Jakarta administration’s budget plan sparked polemics after William Aditya Sarana, a Regional Representative Council (DPRD) member from the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) Faction, publicly criticized the allocation of eye-popping Rp82.8 billion proposed by the West Jakarta education services department for the purchase of Aica-Aibon glue some time ago. Ima Mahdiah, a legislator from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), also questioned several other irregular budget items – from the purchase of office stationeries to sports equipment – at a total value of almost Rp2.5 trillion.
Anies struggled to come up with explanations as the controversial information went viral among the public. One of his arguments was the less-than-optimal digital budgeting system. “I take the bullet for the system which has been in place for years. The one who became the target of public anger is the current governor,” said Anies who took up the post in 2017.
In an hour-long conversation with Tempo’s Mahardika Satria Hadi, Wayan Agus Purnomo, Aisha Shaidra, Hussein Abri Dongoran and Gangsar Parikesit at the Jakarta City Hall, Anies explained the cause behind the chaos in the Jakarta government’s budgeting plan. The father of four also discussed the preparations of Jakarta as a host to Formula E electric race car championship next year, grants for teachers and early childhood educators as well as Jakarta deputy governor candidates.
An irregular budget post was again found. What do you think of the effectiveness of the e-budgeting system?
What became a concern is that the system we currently have is not smart enough. It is digital but it doesn’t perform verification and validation of all the data that were entered. Hence, the appearance of components during the planning phase is not necessarily relevant.
When were the irregular items found?
Actually, we’ve found this problem long ago and we corrected it. In reality, after combing through the budget and found an irregularity, the item was excluded. The purchase was never materialized from the beginning. I told them not to enter a couple of items just to claim everything.
Was there any similar finding in the previous year’s?
Yes, every year. Isn’t it the story all this time? We scrutinized the process and the digital system. It’s like writing using Microsoft Word but making corrections manually, not by AutoCorrect although we can use AutoCorrect, Word Count and so on. Manual checks should have been done when entries were made. For example, buying 10 kilograms of Aica-Aibon glue for each student at a total cost of Rp82 billion. The person who entered the data should have questioned that when he saw that because it did not make sense.
Manual checks should have been done when entries were made. For example, buying 10 kilograms of Aica-Aibon glue for each student at a total cost of Rp82 billion. The person who entered the data should have questioned that when he saw that because it did not make sense.
Was it purely a system error?
There was also human error for sure; the error of the person who did not do his/her job properly. Why was it not done properly? It’s hard to identify the motive. Why did the error occur? Because the system is not foolproof. So, both need to be fixed. People must fill in data correctly.
How likely is the error caused by negligence or an ulterior motive of the data entry clerk?
We don’t know the intention. In terms of value, the amount is not much. But the system cannot detect good or bad intentions.
Actually, the regional working units (SKPD) only need to refer to the last year’s data?
Exactly. The problem is we always have to restart from zero. Another problem is that when an item is corrected, the old data are lost.
Isn’t it in the monitoring and evaluation section that is the basis for regular activities?
Not like that. For instance, now we want to know whoever input Rp82 billion for the Aibon glue. But when the number was changed to zero, the data of the person who previously input the data was erased.
Can it not be traced back?
No. That’s how the system works. We don’t defend the system, but that’s the fact. That’s why there should be track changes feature in the future so that whoever proposes a program will be automatically recorded. The previous Planning Information System which was valid until 2015 could in fact record that. But after switching to the current e-budgeting system, that feature was lost. So, anyone can input programs without being recorded.
Can’t the head of Regional Development Planning Agency (Bappeda) and others check?
Yes, they can check the final (version), the last version and after the data entry is completed and locked. When new entries are made, the corrected items become new again, unlike the current ones.
Isn’t e-budgeting created to allow the SPKD to know the detailed components of the budget preparation so that they don’t just casually propose budget ceilings?
In fact, there is no planning and that is the problem. That’s why we need a planning process consisting of three elements: development planning deliberations (Musrenbang), the established strategic planning as a regional mid-term development plan (RPJMD) and the plan carried out by the (relevant) departments. After these three, we go into budgeting. The current system lacks planning components. And that’s what we handed over to the SKPD.
How do you ascertain that members of Jakarta Governor’s Team for Development Acceleration (TGUPP) do not work in cahoots with the SKPD?
We hold weekly meetings to ensure that the programs are running well. For that reason, in setting the new system, we have to have features that allow us to know the person who proposes a certain program and activities. For example, someone enters a pedestrian walk construction project. It will be clear which department proposes it, if it’s from the DPRD, which faction proposes, in which meeting, etc. Every plan can be traced. Now we know nothing. There are projects but we don’t know who proposed them or what the process look like. That we need to finetune so we know the process and from there we will know whether it’s well-intentioned or ill-intentioned.
Can they not be traced manually?
It will take so much time to trace around 50,000 or so items. The new method will facilitate easier tracing. How many Musrenbang, how many SKPD or recesses will automatically and immediately be known. That’s the benefit of a strong system.
Read the full interview in Tempo English Magazine