Compromising with Corruption

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - THE desire of president Joko Widodo for law enforcement personnel to provide warnings to officials with the potential of being caught up in corruption is very strange. This does not illustrate the commitment of a leader to battle corruption. A system of warnings will only invite collusion that will, in turn, nurture the crime.

    The president made this statement before participants in the Regional Leaders Communication Forum at Sentul, Bogor, West Java on November 13. Jokowi underlined the importance of putting prevention before prosecution of corruption. The prevention that he meant is stopping the arrests of officials and instead warning them before they commit acts of corruption.

    This proposal looks good because it will end the outcry when officials are arrested by law enforcement officers. There will be no need to fire and replace regional heads as a result of corruption cases. Government projects will run smoothly like in the New Order era when activists who uncovered corruption by officials could simply be labeled anti-development.

    The problem is that a warning system will not eradicate corruption and will be difficult to implement. Look at the case of Medan mayor Tengku Dzulmi Eldin, who was arrested in the middle of October. Dzulmi is alleged to have ordered his staff to collect money from department heads to cover the costs of his trip to Japan. How could Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators have prevented that?

    KPK officials could have given Dzulmi a warning, but they would also have to do the same with thousands of officials in Indonesia who could commit corrupt acts at any time. They would be overwhelmed. This also assumes that our officials are very stupid, and cannot differentiate between legal and illegal acts. After all, the KPK has already provided many examples of corrupt acts from the cases that it has handled.

    Jokowi’s way of preventing corruption will also lead to it flourishing. The government has already tried this approach, through Presidential Instruction No. 7/2015 on the Prevention and Eradication of Corruption. This instruction was then interpreted by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) through the establishment of the Regional Development Governance Guidance and Supervisory Team (TP4D) tasked with overseeing tenders for goods and services.

    The result? This led to new corruption. In Yogyakarta, for example, prosecutor Eka Safitra was detained by the KPK in August. He was a member of the TP4G overseeing a project for the repairs to the Yogyakarta drainage system. He took a bribe to ensure that one particular company won the project tender.

    The KPK even announced that the involvement of the AGO team in overseeing project tenders led to many disadvantages. There was collusion between prosecutors, officials and businessmen in many regions. It is no surprise that the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs plans to abolish this tender oversight team.

    President Jokowi should realize that the main function of law enforces is to eradicate crime. The functions of prevention and providing legal information are only one component of this. There are many organizations involved in the prevention of corruption, such as the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKB) and the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK). Almost every ministry also has an inspectorate-general with a similar function.

    The prevention strategy only gives the impression the government is beginning to compromise with corruption. This will lead to disaster because officials and politicians will have no fear of playing dirty games and helping themselves to state funds.

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