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Cleaning Up the Budget
Wednesday, 29 November, 2017 | 14:18 WIB
Cleaning Up the Budget

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The peoples hope to see the Jakarta 2018 Annual Budget being drafted without political wheeling and dealing seems forlorn. In recent days, the process has failed to escape the clutches of the deal-making we have seen so often in this nation.

One of the root causes of the poor state of our budget planning is the lack of firmness on the part of the executive in refusing nonsensical requests from its partners in the legislature. And the lack of order in the process of proposing funding from the government itself adds to the lack of accountability in funding. As a result, it is difficult to avoid waste and even corruption.

Both these problems were in plain sight in the process of drafting the Jakarta Budget, totaling around Rp77 trillion, a rise of Rp3 trillion from the previous year. Governor Anies Baswedan and his deputy Sandiaga Uno seemed powerless to reject a number of unclear projects put forward by the City Council (DPRD). There is the Rp218-million project to produce a book containing profiles of DPRD leadership and members, not to mention the additional supporting costs of attendance in DPRD leadership and member meetings to the tune of Rp16 billion.

These two budget items can be deemed as 'suspicious' because they suddenly appeared during Budgeting Committee deliberations, despite not having been included in the regional government expenditure plans. This is clearly a breach of the budget drafting guidelines laid down under Home Affairs Ministry Regulation No. 86/2017, which only allows ¡°emergency national activities¡± to receive special treatment. 

The DPRD also asked for a fourfold increase in funding for official travels to Rp107.7 billion and in a request that has attracted the most public attention total of Rp620 million for repairs to a fountain, despite previous rejections to these requests.

It is strongly suspected that the lack of resolution from Governor Anies in the face of these DPRD requests is the result of his own desire for several budget items he himself put forward to be passed by the DPRD. For example, Anies proposed increasing donation budgets to Rp1.61 trillion, some of which will go to Islamic study groups in Jakarta. There is also Rp3.5 trillion for social funds which is allocated for 26 mass organizations and religious foundations. In previous years, these funds were channeled for scholarships for poor and impoverished students.

The potential for waste is also apparent in the expenditure for the Gubernatorial Team for Development Acceleration. Initially, the budget for the team was only Rp2.3 billion, but it has been increased by a factor of 12 to Rp28 billion. Questions need to be asked about the importance of this team with 73 members, each receiving a monthly salary of Rp24 million.

As part of the political process in regional legislature, it is difficult to eliminate bargaining from budget drafting. But these negotiations should always be directed towards public interest, not aimed at enriching supporters.

The recent strong public desire to look closely at the Jakarta budget could become a good starting point to keep in check politicians nefarious inclination to play games with funds. Existing initiatives to improve the budgeting system, from e-budgeting to electronic tenders, should not be forgotten. As a new governor, Anies has a golden opportunity to start a new tradition of drafting budgets that are totally free of political horse-trading.

Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine



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