Cash in the Minister’s Drawer
The Corruption Eradication Commission suspects Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin to have played a role in bribery for promotions. Cash in the amount of Rp180 million and US$30,000 found in his office drawer are believed to be connected to the bribery. Lukman insists that the money came from honorarium fees.
Envelopes were found in Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin’s drawer. Some were attached with receipts, others did not. A black bag was discovered in another drawer. Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators found these items when searching Minister Lukman’s office at the religious affairs ministry in Central Jakarta on Monday, March 18.
The envelopes contained Rp100,000 bills, while the black bag contained US dollar bills. Investigators seized envelopes with no receipts attached and the black bag. The brown envelopes contained Rp180 million, while as much as US$30,000 or equivalent to Rp420 million, was kept in the black bag. During the search, investigators also confiscated a number of documents. “The money and documents are believed to be connected to bribery for promotions at the religious affairs ministry,” said KPK spokesperson Febri Diansyah on Thursday, March 21.
KPK searched three rooms at the religious affairs ministry after apprehending Muhammad Romahurmuziy, member of House of Representatives (DPR) financial affairs commission and general chairman of the United Development Party (PPP). Romahurmuziy, known simply as Romy, is suspected of having received bribes from Haris Hasanudin, chief of the East Java religious affairs office, and Muhammad Muafaq Wirahadi, chief of the religious affairs office in Gresik, East Java. Investigators arrested them in Surabaya on Friday, March 15. The KPK seized bribery money in the amount of Rp156 million.
Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University, Jakarta./TEMPO/Muhammad Hidayat
The religious affairs minister inaugurated Haris as chief of the East Java religious affairs office on March 5, while Muafaq has led the Gresik office since January 11. Both are believed to have used Romy’s ‘services’ to obtain their positions. Haris is suspected of having given Romy as much as Rp300 million in bribery. “He was not working alone,” said KPK Deputy Chairman Laode Muhammad Syarif. The KPK believes that Romy used his influence as PPP general chairman in the promotion-related bribery. Minister Lukman is a member of PPP’s high council.
Besides searching the minister’s office, investigators searched the office of religious affairs ministry secretary-general M. Nur Kholis Setiawan and head of employment bureau, Ahmadi. Nur Kholis headed the selection committee for the East Java religious affairs office while Ahmadi was in charge of managing the selection process, including reviewing the candidates’ track records.
According to religious affairs ministry inspector-general of the 2012-2017 period, Mochammad Jasin, Romy did not have the authority to select officials as he stood outside the ministry’s organizational structure. He suspects that Romy collaborated with Lukman and his subordinates. “He (Lukman) would of course obey his party’s leader,” said Jasin on Tuesday, March 19. Besides the general chairman of PPP, Romy is also the leader of the party’s high council, of which Lukman is a member.
The selection committee submitted three names to the religious affairs minister, who then had to make his choice. According to Jasin, although appointments are done openly, there is still a window of opportunity for foul play. At first, Haris Hasanudin was not included in the list of three candidates for chief of the East Java religious affairs office. In 2016, Haris was given a disciplinary sanction. It is believed that the committee manipulated the list of candidates, leading Haris to make the cut and finally be chosen. “Only someone with power could have done that,” said Jasin.
The State Civil Apparatus Commission (KASN) sent a letter to the promotional selection committee on January 29, taking issue with the suspected violation in the selection process. The first letter was ignored by the religious affairs ministry. The KASN then sent another letter on February 27, requesting Haris to be taken off the list of candidates because of his medium-level disciplinary violation. But the minister appointed Haris despite the letters. “The religious affairs ministry has not followed up until today,” said KASN Commissioner Waluyo.
Religious affairs ministry’s main building, Jakarta./TEMPO/Muhammad Hidayat
According to Nur Kholis, his task was only to openly select three names to be submitted to the minister. For the position of chief of the East Java religious affairs office, three names made the list, namely: Haris Hasanudin, who was at the time an acting official at the East Java office; Mochamad Amin Mahfud, chief of the religious office ministry in Magetan, East Java; and Mohamad Khusnoridlo, former chairman of the State Islamic University in Jember, East Java. “The minister made the final selection and Haris Hasanudin was chosen,” said Nur Kholis, also an inspector-general at the ministry.
Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said appointments in his ministry have been performed according to regulations. But he refused to provide further explanation, including why he selected Haris Hasanudin despite KASN’s warnings. “We will provide a more detailed statement when it is time,” said the minister.
The religious affairs ministry has performed open selections since 2016. Mochamad said the selection of echelon II officials, such as heads of regional offices, are performed by a committee led by the secretary-general. Selection committee members include director-generals, the inspector-general, those in the employment division as well as others. The committee studies candidates during the administrative selection phase, written test phase, and interview stage, until the committee comes up with three names to be given to the minister.
The promotion-related bribery again became a hot topic in one of the chat groups for religious affairs ministry employees after former KPK commissioner Mochammad Jasin retired as the ministry’s inspector-general in January 2017. Nur Kholis Setiawan took over the position in mid-2017. Prior, the professor at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University was the ministry’s curriculum director. Ministry employees in the chat group said appointments after Jasin’s retirement were reminiscent of the ‘dark ages’.
According to a KPK law enforcer, Nur Kholis was Muhammad Romahurmuziy’s man in the religious affairs ministry. He comes from Kebumen, Central Java, Romy’s electoral region when he ran as a legislative candidate. Romy was chosen to represent the region for two periods. Nur Kholis’s career went smoothly; one year later, in October 2018, he was appointed to serve as the ministry’s second person in charge. As secretary-general, he was in charge of selecting the ministry’s high officials. When asked about this, Nur Kholis said, “We worked according to regulations.”
Romy had another person in the ministry: head of the ministry’s employment division, Ahmadi, former chief of the religious affairs ministry office in Central Java, Romy’s electoral region. Although he has received disciplinary sanction in the past, Ahmadi’s career at the ministry flourished. According to the KPK law enforcer, it was Ahmadi who communicated with PPP’s central management, which oversaw the coordination in the province connected to the three names that made it to the list to be reviewed by the minister. The party’s management requested a certain amount of money from certain candidates wanting to lead regional offices.
Ahmadi has not given his confirmation and was never at his office when we came. Neither has he responded to our interview request letter. Mastuki, the ministry’s head of public relations, confirmed that Ahmadi was once given a disciplinary sanction, but Mastuki did not wish to comment on the close relationship between Ahmadi and Romy. “We do not wish to comment on outside parties,” he said.
During the selection for head of the West Sumatra religious ministry office, for example, one of the candidates, Abdul Halim Asahan, was once visited by two individuals who claimed to be a representative of the PPP and a religious affairs ministry’s partner business. According to Abdul Halim’s family, the lecturer at the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University in Jakarta was asked to prepare Rp1.5 billion if he wanted to be selected by the minister. The two people paid Halim a visit in November 2017, when the selection process was still in the interview phase. Both said Halim was among the top three candidates. “They said the information came from head of employment bureau Ahmadi,” said our source. Halim refused the offer.
Abdul Halim received information that he was among the top three candidates on December 21, 2018, but several hours later he received news that the religious affairs minister had already selected Hendri, another candidate in the top three, to lead the West Sumatra regional office. The following day, the minister inaugurated Hendri as office head. “This is strange,” he said. Hendri did not wish to say whether people in the PPP management asked him for money. When we contacted his cellular phone, Hendri did not answer our questions about the selection process. Neither did he reply to our WhatsApp message. When we came to his office, a staff member said Hendri was not in.
Mochammad Jasin concerns with the role of the secretary-general—who was concurrently acting as inspector general—as head of the selection committee for high officials in the religious affairs ministry. Jasin said the inspector-general’s role is to judge candidates based on their track records, unlike the secretary-general. “There should not have been a double role as inspector and secretary-general, to avoid conflict of interest,” he said.
According to KPK Chairman Agus Rahardjo, the promotion-related bribery in the religious affairs ministry, which implicates Muhammad Romahurmuziy, had already been detected by the KPK for some time. The KPK had also kept the names of individuals who had been helping Romy inside the ministry and the party. “We will study each person’s role,” he said.
A KPK law enforcer said Romy held the key to most appointments. He communicated with his people at the religious affairs ministry. The law enforcer said Romy also frequently communicated with the religious affairs minister about appointments. “So the religious affairs minister is believed to have been aware of Romy’s dealings,” he said. “The suspicion has lasted two years.”
Romahurmuziy dismisses the accusation of trading positions at the religious affairs ministry, reasoning that appointments are not within his authority as a member of the DPR financial affairs commission. “Do I have the authority or not? That’s the only question,” said Romy after a KPK examination on Friday, March 22.
According to religious affairs ministry inspector-general of the 2012-2017 period, Mochammad Jasin, Romy did not have the authority to select officials as he stood outside the ministry’s organizational structure. He suspects that Romy collaborated with Lukman and his subordinates. “He (Lukman) would of course obey his party’s leader,” said Jasin on Tuesday, March 19.
One of Romy’s lawyers, Maqdir Ismail, said the investigation into his client has not yet been about the actual charge. “Still examined as a witness,” said Maqdir. He did not answer our question about Romy’s suspected role as a broker for appointments within the religious affairs ministry.
In 2018, Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin reported his assets of Rp12.7 billion to the KPK. The reported wealth is Rp1 billion higher than the amount reported in the previous year. The Rp1 billion increase was found in Lukman’s savings of Rp3.68 billion in 2018. Besides the bank account, Lukman owns a 363-square-meter house in the Ragunan area, South Jakarta. When we visited the house on Thursday, March 21, behind the two-meter fence, we could see a lot of trees in the yard of the two-story structure.
Lukman was a DPR member from the PPP from 1997 until he became deputy speaker for the People’s Consultative Assemblly (MPR) in the 2009-2014 period. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono appointed Lukman as religious affairs minister on June 9, 2014, to replace Suryadharma Ali, who was implicated in the corruption of haj pilgrimage funds. Suryadharma was, at the time, PPP general chairman. President Joko Widodo, who became president in October 2014, extended Lukman’s tenure as minister until today.
The father of three’s position fell under threat when Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was accused of religious blasphemy in 2016. According to PPP Deputy Secretary-General Achmad Baidowi, Lukman was believed to have failed to perform his best in quelling Muslim groups. Muhammad Romahurmuziy defended Lukman to President Jokowi. The lobby succeeded and his name was removed from the cabinet reshuffle list. “President learned about Pak Lukman’s work from Romy,” said Baidowi.
Romy also implicated Lukman in the KPK’s bribery investigation. Besides the suspicion that Romy has been ‘trading’ his authority, Lukman’s position was made even more difficult when money was found in his office drawer at the religious affairs ministry. PPP Secretary-General Arsul Sani claimed Lukman had told him that the money was the honorarium he had received for his duties as a minister. “[The money] can be explained,” said Arsul on Tuesday, March 18.
According to Febri Diansyah, besides discovering envelopes containing Rp180 million, the KPK also found other envelopes during the search. These envelopes were not confiscated because they were identified as carrying Minister Lukman’s honorarium fees, based on the receipts attached to the envelopes, describing amounts and the tax paid. “We left the envelopes there,” said Febri on Friday, March 22.
Febri feels it was odd that the minister claimed the money as honorarium fees as it was a risky move that may beg new questions. “As if the religious affairs minister received a total honoraria of Rp600 million,” he said.
The KPK issued bribery control guidelines in June 2015, which says money received for a government affair will be categorized as bribery if the amount is seen as abnormal. The anti-graft agency believes that the money found in Minister Lukman’s drawer falls outside the range of reasonable amounts.