Law Revision Clearly Weakens the KPK
Corruption Eradication Commission Chairman Agus Rahardjo:
INSPECTOR Gen. Firli Bahuri’s selection as the next chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the KPK law’s revision are major setbacks for the anti-graft agency. KPK Chief Agus Rahardjo, 63, says his institution is being surrounded from all sides. In a press conference held with his deputies Laode Muhammad Syarif and Saut Situmorang on Friday, September 13, Agus, who feels that numerous efforts are made to weaken the KPK, says he surrenders the responsibility of managing the commission to President Joko Widodo.
The seemingly secretive and hurried deliberations of the KPK law are why KPK’s leaders are surrendering President Jokowi the mandate. The law revision was approved by the House of Represntatives (DPR) in a plenary session held on September 5. “What made us very disappointed and concerned is that the draft revision of the KPK law was deliberated on in secret, not transparently,” Agus told us.
One day after the KPK law revision was agreed upon, leaders of the Commission sent President Jokowi a letter expressing concern that points in the revision would weaken the KPK. But the letter did not receive the desired response when President Jokowi signed a presidential letter for the revision. On Thursday night, September 12, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly as well as Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo attended a meeting to discuss the law’s revision with the Legislation Body.
At the KPK Merah Putih Building on Monday, September 9, Agus told our reporters, Anton Aprianto, Sapto Yunus, Linda Trianita, Riky Ferdianto, Aisha Shaidra, and Maya Ayu Puspitasari about the efforts meant to weaken the KPK and his hope in President Jokowi. A follow-up interview was held on Friday, September 13, via Whatsapp. Excerpts:
What will the KPK’s future look like under Firli Bahuri’s leadership?
In regard to KPK leaders, the President made his recommendations to the DPR and the DPR has approved. The KPK is obligated to accept. It’s not allowed to go against the President and the DPR’s decision.
What is the stance of KPK’s leadership toward the revision?
What made us very disappointed and concerned is that the KPK law revision was deliberated on in secret, not transparently, and with a hurried deadline. What was the urgency, why the hurry?
When did you write a letter to the President about the KPK law revision?
Two weeks ago, on Friday.
What did the letter say?
In essence, asking to first repair a few other things. We also said that some points in the revision would clearly weaken the KPK. The day after the letter was sent, we received a WhatsApp message from Pak Pratikno (state secretary) saying that our letter had been received.
What was Pratikno’s response?
The President never contacted (you)?
No. I was hoping that at least we would be asked (about the letter).
You said there were nine problematic points in the draft revision of the KPK law. When did the KPK begin to formulate its stance in regard to the revision?
After receiving information from the media. Others were also surprised. All of a sudden there was a revision.
Among the revision points, which ones have great potential to weaken the KPK?
Among others, that wiretapping must be done with the approval of the supervisory board, preliminary investigators and investigators from the National Police and prosecutor’s office. The impact is enormous.
According to the DPR, some of these points had already been proposed by KPK leaders in the Taufiequrachman Ruki era.
I won’t comment because it was in the previous period. But Pak Ruki says he never made the recommendation. I’m confused, which is correct?
(Acting KPK chief in 2015, Taufiequrachman Ruki, denies the statement made by DPR law commission member Arsul Sani saying that KPK’s leaders at the time were the initiators of the KPK law revision.)
Problematic KPK leadership candidates came before the KPK law revision. Do you see both as crucial attacks against the KPK?
I’m not certain whether it’s deliberate. But, clearly, there are efforts to weaken (the KPK), which is why we expressed our wish to the President and hopefully it came under the President’s attention.
Are you sure that you can put hope in the President?
Well, to hope is a must.
Does this have anything to do with DPR members who are frequently the targets of KPK’s sting operations?
I’m unaware whether there is a connection. But a special inquiry committee was formed as soon as there was a case implicating an important person. But I don’t yet know what the connection is.
(In 2017, the DPR formed a special inquiry committee to investigate KPK’s work and authority. The move is believed to be connected to the e-KTP case implicating then-DPR speaker, Setya Novanto).
Some say that the revision is meant to improve KPK’s weak performance. There has been misuse of authority causing cases to be terminated. What is your defense?
If the example [in question] is R.J. Lino (former CEO of Pelindo II), it was because [the case] was reliant on numerous parties. If it’s about state losses, they should be resolved. For more than two years we have been relying on the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP). At the time, the BPKP wanted details. I’m unaware why the work unit did not give the detailed data to the BPKP, which is why BPKP’s calculations could not be completed, always pending.
The KPK was counter-attacked using banners that mention KPK’s 2018 financial report as receiving a qualified opinion. Why did the KPK receive such an appraisal?
That was in the management of evidence and execution. It should not only (explain) the current period, but also in past times. But we have begun to make improvements. Hopefully someday the number of items we have seized can be properly calculated.
According to the Supreme Audit Agency’s (BPK) report, what details were missing?
In essence, those having to do with the management of evidence and execution, but I don’t fully understand.
In fact, the draft KPK law revision was not a priority in the 2019 National Legislation Program. Do you see this as a kind of loophole, that the DPR performed a violation of formal requirements?
I tend to avoid confrontation. Today, for example, many people are saying that the KPK is a troublemaker. I didn’t respond. If I had responded, it would have turned into an unnecessary debate. What for?
But isn’t it important to explain the qualified opinion to the public?
Yes, a qualified opinion is important in its connection to how confiscations are recorded. In terms of official trips, activities, we have not been excessive. There is no overspending. Wherever I go, I don’t receive additional pay. The public has to be certain of this.
Do you regret that a KPK leadership candidate passed despite having committed a serious ethical violation?
That was the ethical code issued by KPK’s supervisory board. Well, let the DPR decide, so if later they ask for evidence, we can show it.
Does this mean that Firli Bahuri was proven to have committed a serious violation?
How about this, let the DPR make the request to us, then we’ll show the data.
The DPR’s consultative meeting was inadequate in stating that Firli committed a serious ethical violation?
After all, it was the leadership’s decision. At the time, the leadership had not made any decision.
At the time, I believe we were thinking, let’s wait until everything is resolved before making a decision. The internal monitoring process continued, but a serious violation was not decided on. Maybe the supervisory board was still collecting material, information.
Firli Bahuri, suspected of having committed an ethical violation, will lead the KPK. What will happen inside the KPK?
There is possibility of disharmony and ineffectiveness inside (the institution). People inside the KPK will take issue.
Agus Rahardjo (left) with KPK investigators exhibiting evidence of bribe money from a sting operation, at the KPK Building, Jakarta. TEMPO/Imam Sukamto
What will cause the disharmony?
It’s possible that the performance won’t be good because of continuous protests from inside.
Is there a regulation that makes it possible to continue the ethical investigation if he returns to the KPK?
At the KPK, internal monitoring is independent, so it’s possible it might continue. I can’t order internal monitoring. They can also investigate me.
Among the remaining candidates, who do you believe can potentially harm the KPK?
I don’t have enough information. (I) don’t know everyone at the top of my head. If I have the data, I can try to explain.
KPK’s internal circle once made a petition concerning alleged data breach. Will this impact KPK’s new leadership?
There has not been an investigation into persons of interest based on the petition’s report.
Political parties who support the KPK law revision are pro-government.
This is why I’m hoping that Pak Jokowi will be balanced in listening to the opinions of law experts from universities. Truly hoping that the President will invite the KPK to a discussion so that the information is balanced.
In several opportunities, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said KPK’s arrests are causing bureaucrats to be fearful, which disrupts the investment climate.
Is it sting operations that are feared may impede investment, or is it corruption? Investors are certainly afraid of corruption. There is no need to be afraid of law enforcement. Those who should be scared of law enforcement are, in fact, officials who commit corruption. If an official is clean, why be afraid? Recently I made a request so that the magnitude of preventive measures will be able to contribute to additional state income.
KPK is also said as making preventive efforts in the provinces, but upon its return, several regional heads were apprehended.
Meaning we sent a message so that they would stop misusing open bidding regulations, trading positions, and carelessly managing regional assets. Stop creating open bidding regulations and trading positions. I was in procurement, so (I) know enough to say that such implementations are not yet ‘healthy’.
In practice, is there a balance between prevention and prosecution?
The media rarely covers prevention. I think that in terms of budget allocation, I’m sure there are more preventive measures compared to prosecutions.
What prevention efforts are most visible?
We begin with education, from drafting curricula for early education up to university level. Apart from that, supplying teaching material, managing education management, and devising prevention in politics. We also came up with the JAGA application to demand more transparent public services.
For current conditions in the country, which one has to be prioritized?
I believe that both have to go hand in hand. We can’t only rely on prevention because this country has a long history of corruption. Unfortunately, the public’s sense of crisis in regard to corruption is still low.
Is the spirit to prioritize prevention unsuitable (for current times)?
I agree that in the near future there has to be changes in the system, procedures must be simplified, more transparent, and integrity has to be upheld. Apart from that, changes in governance.
According to the KPK law revision, the supervisory board will include DPR members and persons appointed by the President. How detrimental is this to the KPK?
Only in relation to fundamental tasks. If the fundamental task is to supervise—like the National Police Commission or the Prosecutor’s Office—and not to get involved in operational affairs, I think it would still make sense. But if (it involves) supervising daily operations, of course it would be disruptive.
Regarding the point in the revision about KPK employees being state civil apparatuses who abide by laws and regulations, how does this impact independence?
State civil apparatuses usually work under coordinating ministers. This also becomes questionable. Because as soon as they are under one coordinating minister, their positions should no longer be independent.
What is your opinion in regard to the point in the revision that wiretapping has to have the approval of the supervisory board?
Actually, we have said plenty, no? The only institution that uses audited wiretapping is the KPK. What year did the audit stop, well, because there was a regulation that caused the communication and information ministry to be afraid because its authority was lost. But we will still send a letter, asking to still be audited so that people don’t see us as carelessly using the authority to audit. Always from the work unit to the director, the director to the deputy, and the deputy to the leadership.
Is it also difficult to process permits in the court?
Our concern is that there is potential for breach. Especially when an audit has been performed. We have never performed wiretapping in violation of procedure. We always ask, why is this person being wiretapped, what is the preliminary evidence, what event it is tied with. There is a procedure. And wiretapping is not performed by prosecution (division). Another deputy does it. If there are no signatures of three leaders, colleagues in other divisions would not dare take action. Even if it’s urgent, (wiretapping) would not be done.
Was the employees’ rejection of the KPK law revision coordinated with the leadership?
We also have the Advisory for Inter-Commission and Institution Network. We have an employees’ forum. It only natural that when the institution is being weakened, as one of the avenues to fight back, from the leadership, all of KPK employees will see this as something that must be fought for together.
Are you still optimistic about the President?
When was the last time you met with the President?
It’s been a while. (I) often meet him at events. Only handshakes.
The DPR’s next step depends on the President’s letter. Who does the KPK rely on?
The KPK relies on the people. Hopefully the people will still defend the KPK. So far, efforts to weaken the KPK have failed because the KPK has been defended by the public. The public is made up of various components, universities, civil society.
Is it necessary for KPK’s leadership to contain elements from the police and prosecutor’s office?
Actually, if we’re talking nationally, the first and second tasks of the KPK is to coordinate and supervise law enforcement in handling corruption. Well, to be the coordinator, you become a supervisor from the police or prosecutor’s office, (this person) should be someone who is feared. Who? I think, a former National Police chief or attorney general with integrity. Not a subordinate and not someone who is assigned.
Only one police candidate is left.
Go ahead and interpret what I said yourself.
Place and date of birth: Magetan, East Java, March 28, 1956 | Education: Bachelor of Civil Engineering, Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology, Surabaya (1984), Masters from the Arthur D. Little Management Education Institute, Cambridge, United States (1991) | Career: Chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (December 2015-present), Chairman of National Public Procurement Agency (2010-2015), Head of the National Public Procurement Agency Development Center (2006-2008), Director of National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) Budgeting System and Procedure (2003-2006), Bappenas Director of Education and Religion (2000-2003)