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Tjahjo Kumolo: I'm 90 percent sure who the e-KTP mastermind is  
Interior Minister Tjahjo Kumolo. TEMPO/Arkhewis
Tuesday, 28 March, 2017 | 08:48 WIB
Tjahjo Kumolo: I'm 90 percent sure who the e-KTP mastermind is  

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The electronic ID card (e-KTP) corruption case is giving Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo a big headache. For the past year and a half, some 68 of his subordinates have been questioned by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). "This has clearly affected the mental state of the ministry's personnel," said Tjahjo. 

The KPK has been investigating the e-KTP case since 2014. So far, only two former officials of the home affairs ministry has been indicted in the case that has incurred the state a loss of Rp2.3 trillion. One of them is Irman, the former director-general in charge of demographics and civil registry, and the other one is Sugiharto, the former director for information management and demographics administration. Along with 37 other people, they are suspected of accepting bribes in return for marking-up the project cost to a phenomenal amount of Rp5.9 trillion. "They were only subordinates, someone else was giving the orders," explained Tjahjo.

Amid proceedings of the case, which is currently being tried at the Jakarta Corruption Court, Tjahjo is attempting to restore a semblance of normality to the affected office of demographics. He said his ministry had gathered and recorded data from 96.54 percent of 178 million people, who own electronic ID cards. He promised to resolve the auction of the blank e-KTP cards by the end of this month, so that the remaining seven million other citizens would be able to get their new ID cards.

Two weeks ago, Tjahjo met with Tempo reporters Sapto Yunus, Anton Septian, Reza Maulana, Raymundus Rikang and Arkhelaus Wisnu for a special interview at his office in Central Jakarta. During the hour-long interview, Tjahjo repeatedly apologized to the 4.5 million people who had submitted their data but failed to get their cards because of the shortage of cards. He promised to resolve the problem by the end of the year at the latest.


This mega corruption case originated at the home affairs ministry. Has the KPK asked for your thoughts? 

We haven't specifically discussed the e-KTP case. But at one time, Pak Agus Rahardjo, chairman of the KPK, told me that it was unlikely Rp2 trillion was given only to Irman and Sugiharto. No matter who they are protecting, the truth will eventually come out. The KPK will keep on investigating this case.


But do you agree with Agus Rahardjo's view?

I know Pak Irman. He lives a simple life. I once visited his house, it's not at all ostentatious. His (bank) account has little money in it. Pak Sugiharto, who is an echelon II official, is the same.


Are you saying Irman and Sugiharto are not the masterminds?

They were the subordinates, someone else was giving the orders. I told them, tell the KPK everything you know. In fact, based on the staff's report, I am 90 percent sure who the mastermind is. But it wouldn't be ethical for me to reveal it at this time. Let the KPK expose it.


Is the rank of this person higher than Irman? 

(Smiling) I'm quite high, more than 180 centimeters tall.


Your predecessor, Minister Gamawan Fauzi, claimed to have been deceived by his subordinates over the e-KTP project. Is that likely?

My mistake was that during the handover ceremony, we never spoke about the e-KTP case in detail. He just handed over the institutional memory. I didn't feel ethical asking him about it. So that I myself would not be deceived by my staff, I have been hard on them. I have fired 90 officials because of their dishonesty, those who were caught red-handed as well as those who confessed. I reported one of them to the KPK because he tried to bribe me with Rp150 million so he would get promoted. Fortunately, Soedarmo, my director-general is a former BIN (State Intelligence Agency) in charge of politics and ideology. So, he resolved the problem.


In your opinion, what went wrong that enabled such a massive corruption case to happen? 

It's best that I don't make any comment. There were some people who marked up the budget thus big, in order that half the project cost could be stolen.


Someone even told me that this e-KTP project could have been implemented with a Rp2 trillion budget.


What has been lost as a consequence of this debacle? 

Time was lost. Government services and programs, like the Healthy Indonesia Card, the Smart Indonesia Card and family welfare assistance, whose data have yet to be effectively connected.


Conversely, what would be the advantage if that system worked? 

For the two years that I've been working (at this job), we have synchronized population data with more than 200 institutions, including the social welfare agency, the tax directorate-general and the National Narcotics Board (BNN). This year, I plan to have all hospitals connected to the e-KTP, so that a patient's medical history can be immediately accessed. If the e-KTP problem can be resolved this year, we should be able to hold the 2019 general elections electronically.


Is it true this e-KTP case enraged President Joko Widodo?

With a high-pitched voice, he said that if the Rp6 trillion project were to be executed seriously, this country would have had a single basic database. Because of corruption, this project is delayed. His anger is understandable, because his priority has always been better public services.


To what extent is this case affecting his cabinet? 

There has never been a specific discussion about it in the cabinet. But I have routinely reported to President Jokowi, Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani on the budget. At one time, Pak Jokowi reminded us of the responsibility for making it easy for people get the most basic services, such as a birth certificate, an ID card and a marriage certificate. I follow it up by scrapping overlapping regulations in the regions, so that people no longer need to extend their ID cards. However, one drawback in implementation is the quality of our personnel, which is uneven in different places.


Does the President believe that public service has been disrupted because of this mega corruption case? 

I apologized to him and told him the mistake was mine. Yet, our staff from the lower ranks up to the high officials have been summoned by the KPK, from echelon I to II, even to the auction committee members and staff. (*)


Read the full interview in this week’s edition of Tempo English Magazine

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