Tuesday, 26 June, 2012 | 15:55 WIB
No Vaccine Shot Powerful Enough
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:The Supreme Audit Agency has found corruption indications in the state’s bird flu vaccine project, a contract awarded to graft convict Nazaruddin’s companies. There are suspicions of kickbacks for House legislators and Health Ministry officials.
Health Commission chairman at the House of Representatives (DPR) Ribka Tjiptaning remembered Muhammad Nasir, a Democrat Party politician who had once worked as her peer at the Health Commission, handing over two bags to her on two separate occasions.
The bag delivery had occurred several days after the Health Commission approved an increased budget for bird flu vaccines proposed by the Health Ministry. She claimed she originally rejected the proposed budget of Rp656 billion for the development of a full-fledged laboratory and center, focusing on bird flu vaccine production, research and technology transfer facilities. She said there was no urgency to the project at the time.
After a number of sessions deliberating over the possible increase however, the Health Commission gavethe green light. Ribka had not joined the decisive meetings, as she had been attending the PDIP national congress in Bali. “Although I was absent, I had to follow the decision taken in those meetings.”
Ribka described the bags she received from Nasir as ordinary presents. Nasir is brother to Muhammad Nazaruddin, a high-profile graft convict who had been the Democrat Party treasurer at the time.
Indeed, the Health Ministry’s ambitious goal of owning an integrated bird flu vaccine laboratory had been quickly discerned by Muhammad Nazaruddin. Moreover, with a human case of bird flu occurring for the first time in Banten in 2005, the plan to realize the project received more weight.
A Health Ministry official said although the plan for the bird flu vaccine plant construction existed, the
ministry had not yet proposed a budget for a bird flu vaccine project. This is why officials of the Health Ministry were initially taken by surprise upon receiving notification of an increase in the 2008 state budget for the Health Ministry, worth Rp 200 billion. This notification was received through a letter of the
Directorate General of Budgeting No. S-1256/66/2008 dated May 15, 2008. The additional funds were later slotted by then Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari to be utilized for the bird flu vaccine project.
“So the budget had emerged first. Then the project [came afterwards],” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to the official, “invisible hands” at the DPR and the Ministry of Finance managed the emergence of the budget, before the project was conjured up at the Health Ministry. He alleged that Nazaruddin and his friends had made this happen.
Siti Fadilah then appointed PT Biofarma, as recipient of the integrated bird flu vaccine research and production facilities. The Directorate General of Disease Control and Environmental Hygiene was appointed the Budget Utilization authority for this project.
On September 19, 2008, Siti Fadilah sent a letter to Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani Indrawati, proposing a bird flu vaccine project multi-year budget increase - to Rp637 billion. Two months later, an approval was issued by the Finance Ministry.
As project executor, the Directorate General of Disease Control and Environmental Hygiene prepared two phases of the construction. The first was the construction of the bird flu vaccine production, research and technology transfer facilities for the fiscal period of 2008-2010, worth Rp718.8 billion. The second was the construction of connecting breeding system facilities and infrastructure for the research and technology of bird flu vaccines for humans, for the fiscal period of 2010-2011, worth Rp663.4 billion.
The same official said that Nazaruddin’s men moved quickly when the procurement committee prepared
the tender for the first phase at the end of October 2008. He revealed Nazaruddin and his older brother Nasir had several times met with Health Ministry authorities to discuss the project. “These discussions included the minister,” he said.
The high-level lobbying proved effective. On November 28, 2008, Anugrah Nusantara, Nazaruddin’s primary company, was declared winner. Alfindo Nuratama Perkasa and Mahkota Nusantara were named first and second reserves. These two were later known to be also affiliated to Nazaruddin.