Many Get Furious When I Talk About System
Anies Baswedan, Jakarta Governor:
ANIES Baswedan unfolded two sheets of papers containing excerpts of the 2017 Jakarta provincial government budget (APBD) which offered the information regarding the purchase of chalkboard erasers for over 600,000 students in Jakarta within a period of 12 months at a staggering cost: Rp53 billion. “Did we buy all of that at the end? No. In reality, the money is to pay employees’ honorariums,” he told Tempo on Friday, November 8, while occasionally pointing out at the numbers in the papers.
Then the governor gave examples of loopholes in the Jakarta’s electronic budgeting (e-budgeting) system. He said when Rp53 billion was set as Education Operational Assistance fund, there was no entry yet in the catalogue to describe the fund’s use. So, the data-entry clerk instead filed it as chalkboard erasers. “The bottom line is that Rp53 billion was already recorded. Later after discussions, the real (plan) will be input,” Anies said.
The Jakarta administration’s budget plan sparked polemics after William Aditya Sarana, a Regional Representative Council (DPRD) member from the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) Faction, publicly criticized the allocation of eye-popping Rp82.8 billion proposed by the West Jakarta education services department for the purchase of Aica-Aibon glue some time ago. Ima Mahdiah, a legislator from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), also questioned several other irregular budget items—from purchase of office stationeries to sports equipment—at a total value of almost Rp2.5 trillion.
Anies struggled to come up with explanations as the controversial information went viral among the public. One of his arguments was the less-than-optimal digital budgeting system. “I take the bullet for the system which has been in place for years. The one who became the target of public anger is the current governor,” said Anies who took up post in 2017.
In an hour-long conversation with Tempo’s Mahardika Satria Hadi, Wayan Agus Purnomo, Aisha Shaidra, Hussein Abri Dongoran and Gangsar Parikesit at the Jakarta City Hall, Anies explained the cause behind the chaos in the Jakarta government’s budgeting plan. The father of four also discussed the preparations of Jakarta as a host to Formula E electric race car championship next year, grants for teachers and early childhood educators as well as Jakarta deputy governor candidates.
An irregular budget post was again found. What do you think of the effectiveness of the e-budgeting system?
What became a concern is that the system we currently have is not smart enough. It is digital but it doesn’t perform verification and validation of all the data that were entered. Hence, the appearance of components during the planning phase are not necessarily relevant.
When were the irregular items found?
Actually, we’ve found this problem long ago and we corrected it. In reality, after combing through the budget and found an irregularity, the item was excluded. The purchase was never materialized from the beginning. I told them not to enter a couple of items just to claim everything.
Was there any similar finding in the previous year’s?
Yes, every year. Isn’t it the story all this time? We scrutinized the process and the digital system. It’s like writing using Microsoft Word but making corrections manually, not by AutoCorrect although we can use AutoCorrect, Word Count and so on. Manual checks should have been done when entries were made. For example, buying 10 kilograms of Aica-Aibon glue for each student at a total cost of Rp82 billion. The person who entered the data should have questioned that when he saw that because it did not make sense.
Manual checks should have been done when entries were made. For example, buying 10 kilograms of Aica-Aibon glue for each student at a total cost of Rp82 billion. The person who entered the data should have questioned that when he saw that because it did not make sense.
Was it purely a system error?
There was also human error for sure. The error of the person who did not do his/her job properly. Why was it not done properly? It’s hard to identify the motive. Why did the error occur? Because the system is not foolproof. So, both need to be fixed. People must fill in data correctly.
How likely is the error caused by negligence or an ulterior motive of the data entry clerk?
We don’t know the intention. In terms of value, the amount is not much. But the system cannot detect good or bad intentions.
Actually, the regional working units (SKPD) only needs to refer to the last year’s data?
Exactly. The problem is we always have to restart from zero. Another problem is that when an item is corrected, the old data are lost.
Isn’t it in the monitoring and evaluation section that is the basis for regular activities?
Not like that. For instance, now we want to know whoever input Rp82 billion for the Aibon glue. But when the number was changed to zero, the data of the person who previously input the data was erased.
Can it not be traced back?
No. That’s how the system works. We don’t defend the system, but that’s the fact. That’s why there should be track changes feature in the future so that whoever proposes a program will be automatically recorded. The previous Planning Information System which was valid until 2015 could in fact record that. But after switching to the current e-budgeting system, that feature was lost. So, anyone can input programs without being recorded.
Can’t the head of Regional Development Planning Agency (Bappeda) and others check?
Yes, they can check the final (version), the last version and after the data entry is completed and locked. When new entries are made, the corrected items become new again, unlike the current ones.
Isn’t e-budgeting created to allow the SPKD to know the detailed components of the budget preparation so that they don’t just casually propose budget ceilings?
In fact, there is no planning and that is the problem. That’s why we need a planning process consisting of three elements: development planning deliberations (Musrenbang), the established strategic planning as a regional mid-term development plan (RPJMD) and the plan carried out by the (relevant) departments. After these three, we go into budgeting. The current system lacks planning components. And that’s what we handed over to the SKPD.
How do you ascertain that members of Jakarta Governor’s Team for Development Acceleration (TGUPP) do not work in cahoots with the SKPD?
We hold weekly meetings to ensure that the programs are running well. For that reason, in setting the new system, we have to have features that allow us to know the person who proposes a certain program and activities. For example, someone enters a pedestrian walk construction project. It will be clear which department proposes it, if it’s from the DPRD, which faction proposes, in which meeting, etc. Every plan can be traced. Now we know nothing. There are projects but we don’t know who proposed them or what the process look like. That we need to finetune so we know the process and from there we will know whether it’s well-intentioned or ill-intentioned.
Can they not be traced manually?
It will take so much time to trace around 50,000 or so items. The new method will facilitate easier tracing. How many Musrenbang, how many SKPD or recesses will automatically and immediately be known. That’s the benefit of a strong system.
How can the improved e-budgeting system anticipate parties that may pressure the SKPD to input certain procurements?
It will be an open process. Every proposed program is recorded along with its information. For instance, when a DPRD member submits a program to repair communal sanitary facilities. Well, we should not reject it since it is a basic public need in given areas. If it is recorded, then we can make the person accountable. Any unusual requests will also be recorded.
A Jakarta DPRD member from the PDI-P Faction still found an odd budget item of staggering value. What is your response?
Well, it can be discussed in meetings. We must not allow any abnormal item.
TGUPP members are seen as not highly effective in examining budgets.
Show us the number and let us discuss. There is too much rhetoric here. For instance, we need Rp300 billion for Formula E. It’s alright if some say it’s an abnormal or normal number. It’s just a matter of description. I will not be defensive. This is public fund so let us discuss facts. It is also their right if they want to blamestorm during the discussion. We want to clear this up. Many people get furious when I talk about the system because it sounds political.
You mean within the internal scope of the provincial government?
Nope. It was widely talked among the public although upgrade is a normal thing to do in every system. That’s the reason why I’ve never talked about the system until now.
Or because you were talking about the system initiated by the former governor?
Exactly. Why do I talk about it now? Because a problem was found and made known to the public. Therefore, I have to tell the public what have happened. Was the problem found only recently? No. We found it earlier. If I only want to blame (someone), I could go public and say that the problem existed since last year. But I didn’t do it. I wanted to show that I don’t have the intention to make it a political issue.
Anies Baswedan delivering his administration’s performance at the Jakarta City Hall, October 15. TEMPO/Muhammad Hidayat
Did you see criticism towards fixing the e-budgeting system as a political attempt by other parties?
That’s none of my business. That’s their right. My business is to ensure that the governance in the provincial administration is running well and to take care of problems as soon as they arise. I’ve taken corrective actions. That’s what I am accountable to the public for.
What is the solution to make sure that such an odd budget incident will not recur?
We are in the process of updating—not eliminating—the system. For goodness’ sake, we who use applications are also used to software updates for better service.
Will the updated system guarantee that no similar error will occur?
When you upgrade a system, does it become perfect straight away? Clearly not. When we found it last year, I said that was not right. But was it some form of theft? We didn’t know. As I said earlier, it could be due to laziness or bad intention or the system that is not optimal yet.
How does the disciplinary mechanism work for officials deemed to be negligent in budgeting cases?
We are investigating. All the irregularities and their parts of negligence are checked and sanctions will be given in line with the rules.
Has it been done?
It is in the process.
How many officials?
I will check. We’re investigating one by one.
Formula E has become the target of criticism because it is not part of RPJMD. What’s your response?
It’s the same as the last Asian Games. It wasn’t in the RPJMN (national mid-term development plan). Because there was an opportunity that is good for Indonesia, we grab it.
The preparations are also considered as consuming massive amount of budget when the administration is having a deficit.
We are preparing for Formula E with the intention to boost the economy. The sluggish economy needs capital to move forward. Let us not abandon economic stimulation because the economy is slow and the budget declines.
The amount of grants given out also soars during your era. What are the rationales?
Not just grants, we also promote self-management procurement type 3 and 4. With that, the public can be directly involved in the development process and not just be onlookers. The government directly gives the budget to the public to manage. Jakarta is the first and one and only province to implement this scheme.
How will the potentials for misuse of grants be minimized?
That is the challenge. We are the first, therefore we ourselves are learning how to prevent misuses because where money is involved, there are always potentials for misuse. Now the inspectorate and others are learning. We will broaden the scope.
The total amount of grants for the Indonesian Teachers’ Association and the Early Childhood Educators continued to increase. Is it because they have not received enough attention in the past?
For that matter, we have to overhaul the law so that early childhood educators can be full-fledged teachers. With that status, they will be entitled to dynamic performance allowance like others. This is about the legal basis that says they are not teachers.
How many mass organizations that supported you in the gubernatorial election received grants?
All the mass organizations are welcomed to submit proposals. There is a selection process.
With the problems that exist, can you handle them without a deputy governor?
It gets troublesome when there are events at the same time, particularly ceremonial events. For example, when the president travels, we have to see him off at the airport. At the same time, there is a DPRD plenary session to attend. I have one body and I am required to be in both places.
How did you manage such a situation?
I sent a deputy (to send off the President). I contacted the secretariat and they understood. Because that was more of a ceremonial duty.
Prabowo Subianto approved Gerindra to push for a quota to fill the deputy gubernatorial post.
I’ve always said that I will faithfully carry out my authority and responsibilities, That’s my job. It is the job of political parties to nominate deputy governor candidates. The parties own the process. For God’s sake, I have so much on my plate already.
ANIES RASYID BASWEDAN
Place and date of birth:
Kuningan, West Java, May 7, 1969
Education: Bachelor of Economics, Gadjah Mada University (1995), Master in International Security and Economic Policy, University of Maryland, US (1997), Ph.D., Northern Illinois University, US (2005)
Career: Governor, Jakarta (2017-now), Minister of Education and Culture (2014-2016), Rector, Paramadina University (2007-2015), Chairman, Ethics Committee, Corruption Eradication Commission (2013), Founder, Indonesia Mengajar (2010)