Albertina Ho, Member of the Supervisory Board of the Corruption Eradication Commission: There Are More Powers Scrutinzing Us
Barely two months after its establishment, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) supervisory board already received a complaint against the commission leadership for alleged ethic violation.
The KPK staff association filed the complaint on February 4 in response to KPK Chief Firli Bahuri and four other commissioners’ decision to transfer Comsr. Rossa Purbo Bekti back to the national police.
Rossa was the lead investigator of the probe into alleged corruption in the parliament recall which implicates General Election Commission (KPU) commissioner Wahyu Setiawan and former legislative candidate from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) Harun Masiku. In its report to the supervisory board, the staff association pointed out that sending back Rossa to the national police at the height of the investigation of the high-profile suspected graft case was suspicious. The police initially pulled Rossa back but later cancelled it. “The board has received the report and is studying the content,” one of the board members Albertina Ho told Tempo.
After serving as a judge presiding over many onerous cases, including the mega tax mafia case involving Gayus Tambunan, Albertina got an offer from the Palace to become one of the KPK supervisory board members. The primary mission of the board is to oversee the anti-graft agency and its five leaders in exercising authority and performing duties. On December 20, 2019, Albertina, alongside four other members, was sworn in by President Joko Widodo.
Albertina, 61, never thought that the supervisory board—established based on the new KPK law—would receive criticism from anti-graft activists who doubt the neutrality of the board whose members were appointed directly by the president. They view that the board would only stem KPK’s authority. “KPK carries out its duties independently. So is the supervisory board,” she said. However, she did not deny that the board faced daunting challenges, particularly following a survey that showed a declining public trust in the KPK on the heel of the 2019 presidential election. But she maintains confidence in KPK’s commitment to fighting corruption.
Albertina received Tempo’s Mahardika Satria Hadi, Linda Trianita and Aisha Shaidra at her office for a special interview on January 29. During the chat that lasted about an hour and a half, she talked about various issues, from the board’s role in issuing warrants for wiretaps, raids and seizures to the perception that the board’s presence will only create additional red tape within the agency. The interview was supplemented with Albertina’s WhatsApp’s response last Friday. Excerpts:
Is it true that the supervisory board did not know about the planned sting operation (OTT) on KPU commissioner Wahyu Setiawan?
The OTT is the leaders’ business. We were not aware of it.
Didn’t the leaders inform the board?
No. In fact, we knew it from the media. So, if there was any information leak, it didn’t come from us.
According to the procedure, are they not supposed to report it (OTT) to the board?
The law does not require them to do so.
In Wahyu Setiawan’s case, KPK investigators could not search the office of the PDI-P’s central board reportedly due to the lack of warrant from the supervisory board. What happened?
The board would definitely respond to all the requests received—be it for wiretap, search or seizure—within 24 hours as stipulated in the law, either for approval or disapproval. We never disregard any request that comes in. The board definitely answers yes or no.
So, there wasn’t any request from the investigators for a warrant to search the PDI-P office?
We haven’t issued any disapproval letter until today. Without a request, we will clearly not issue anything because the law says so.
What is the procedure of issuing a search warrant?
The investigator must prepare and submit the request to the supervisory board. The request must essentially contain, first, the legal basis for the search which certainly is through the investigation order (sprindik) and the report of criminal activities (LKTPK). Secondly, it should have a brief description of the case. Lastly, it should give the rationale for the search. The request should be accompanied by copies of sprindik and the LKTPK.
How about the mechanism for wiretap authorization?
The procedure for wiretap which is governed separately is different. There has to be a case hearing but the procedure is simplified to prevent information leak. The wiretap request must be submitted by the KPK leaders.
How long does it take?
On the same day that the KPK investigators apply for a wiretap authorization, we hear the case. We in fact expect the investigators to present the case in front of the board at the moment they submits the request, as the law suggests. Right after the hearing, we deliberate whether the authorization should be given, and then we either give it or deny it immediately. The hearing is participated only by the supervisory board and the investigators to minimize potentials for information leak.
How is it different from seizure warrant procedure?
For search and seizure orders, investigators’ requests will suffice.
How many requests has the board received since the inauguration?
If I remember correctly, as of last Friday (January 24), we’ve granted five search warrants and 25 seizure orders.
Is there as any request that was rejected?
None for search warrant requests.
How about wiretapping?
We haven’t received any request to wiretap.
How many KPK leaders must sign the wiretap request?
There is no such requirement. The law only says that the leadership must make the request.
The supervisory board’s presence is seen as extending the bureaucratic red tape within the KPK. What is your response?
If indeed we lengthen the procedure, how long? No longer than 24 hours. In actual practice, it only takes two or three hours for us to issue search or seizure orders. We also use technology. All the requests are submitted via email. So, we immediately process them as they (investigators) still sit at their desks.
How does the board coordinate with the KPK leadership?
Some time ago, we held a coordination meeting with the KPK in which 10 people from the KPK including the leaders participated. We agreed that one of the supervisory duties was to hold quarterly oversight coordination meetings with KPK leaders.
What is the toughest topic of discussion?
It was still an inaugural meeting so there was nothing tough to discuss, yet. The board mostly explained its duties and plans to the leaders. In principle, the KPK leadership welcomed them and said they would give us the widest access possible to help us carry out our duties, particularly oversight duties.
Can the board ask for reports of actions taken and evaluated from the KPK?
Certainly. That’s why it is called oversight coordination meeting. The board and the leadership can also hold coordination meetings as the need arises, for example, a pressing situation or news or demand from the public.
The KPK already has an internal oversight division. Aren’t there overlapping duties?
We coordinate with the internal oversight and public complaint division (PIPM). It is possible that ethic violation complaints may go to the PIPM. If it receives complaints which are not about cases, or worse, about ethic code violations, the PIPM should forward them to the board. But if they are about corruption, then the board does not have the authority over them.
Do the oversight duties also include terminating cases?
The board does not handle investigation termination order (SP3) but we can certainly oversee task execution and evaluate work performance.
It means it also includes determining the substance of the case? For example, when the investigation of a certain case should be suspended but the board has a different opinion?
We don’t go to the extent of interfering with investigations but only into evaluation. For instance, for a given case that has been ongoing for a prolong period of time until the SP3 deadline without any progress, we could ask whether it would be terminated or elevated.
What sort of reports have the board received?
A lot of complaints.
As regards the KPK staff organization’s complaint against KPK Chair Firli Bahuri in relation to the transfer of Rossa Purbo Bekti back to the national police, has the board found any violations by the KPK leaders?
The leadership has already explained to the media about the transfer. If you want details, you can ask the KPK spokesperson.
Albertina Ho (center) at a meeting with DPR’s Law Commission at the Parliament Complex, Jakarta, January 27./ANTARA/M Risyal Hidayat
What sanctions can be imposed if the alleged violation is proven?
If there is an ethic code violation, after a hearing, appropriate sanctions will be given according to the regulations being prepared by the board. Until the new regulations take effect, the old regulations will be applied.
Were there speculations within the KPK amid rumored whereabouts of PDI-P politician Harun Masiku?
I only know (what’s going on) within the supervisory board.
Didn’t the board ask why there was a rumor like that?
During the hearing at the House of Representatives (DPR), a DPR member himself said that the KPK leaders never said that Harun Masiku was overseas.
How is the work divided among the board members?
We divide four functional duties in line with respective fields.
Is there a formal mechanism, for example, if there are differences of opinion?
The five of us agree to take collective and collegial decisions. We use voting in accordance with the general guidelines. If three agree and two disagree, we accept the votes of the three.
There is only one article, that is Article 37-B, in the new KPK law on the supervisory board. How about the regulations on the execution of the board’s duties?
The board has distributed tasks (among the members) to compile the business process and standard operating procedure (SOP)—how we carry out our oversight duties, warrant issuance, evaluation as well as preparing and enforcing the code of ethics.
Has the code of ethics been formulated?
It is still being compiled.
ALBERTINA HO • Place and date of birth: Southeast Maluku, January 1, 1960 • Education: Bachelor of Law, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta (1979-1985); Master of Law, Jenderal Soedirman University, Purwokerto (2004) • Career: Deputy Chair, Sungai Liat District Court, Bangka Belitung (2011-2013), Chair, Sungai Liat District Court (2013-2014), Deputy Chair, Palembang District Court (2014-2015), Chair, Bekasi District Court (2015-June 2016), Judge, Medan High Court ( June 3, 2016-September 2019), Deputy Chair, Kupang High Court (September 27, 2019-December 20, 2019), Member, Corruption Eradication Commission Supervisory Board (2019-now)
Then which code of ethics is in effect currently?
The old code of ethics remains in effect until the board establishes the new code.
What changes have been made in the new code of ethics?
The board agreed to refer to the old code in formulating the new one but it doesn’t mean we follow everything in it.
What did the board note about the old code?
We first want to ask for feedback from the leaders and the staff. We’ve collected codes of ethics from other institutions for comparison. Only after gathering everything above, will the board deliberate. We will solicit expert assistance if necessary. We are preparing a single code of ethics which will be applied to both the leaders and the staff.
How about oversight over the board?
The board also agreed to establish a code of ethics for itself. We will prioritize the code for the leaders and the employees first as obligated by the law.
Is there a deadline?
It is not specified but it should be at the soonest, of course. Afterwards, we will prepare the code for the board. It is not required by the law but we feel it is necessary.
Structurally, there is no oversight authority over the supervisory board?
The law does not regulate who should keep watch on the board. But in reality, there are a lot more powers scrutinizing the board. Who are they? Well, the media, the public, NGOs. We are certain that even the KPK leaders and employees also keep tabs on us although it is not formally stipulated.
What will the scale of the code enforcement be like?
Clearly, the enforcement for the leaders will be easier because it is already regulated by the supervisory board. Meanwhile, the enforcement for the board itself, well, this is my personal opinion, we can bring in external party so as to maintain objectivity.
Is the supervisory board directly responsible to the president?
The board submits an annual implementation report, not accountability report, to the president and the DPR.
How important is the role of the supervisory board in the new KPK law?
I think its responsibilities are quite comprehensive and appear important. It’s just that there is no further description so we prepare it by ourselves.
What prompted you to accept the offer to become the board member?
In terms of career, I’ve reached my highest rank at the supreme court at IV/E. As a judge, I was already the deputy chair of the provincial court and after which I can become the chair and then I’d be done. So, I decided to take the offer but with the request to help me with employment administration matters (at the supreme court). The supreme court leaders gave me permission (to join the board) and put me on a temporary inactive status.
The board member’s authority will not be as strong as that of a judge who can rule a case...
That’s not a problem. That will be part of the path that I chose to take. I think the current duties are similar to those that I undertook as a judge, for instance, hearing ethic violation cases.
How did the offer come to you?
Somebody called me and told me that I was on the candidate list. I thought it was a prank. The next day, a different person called and said, “Ibu, you’ve been chosen by the president”.
When you got the offer, were you aware that the new KPK bill was drawing so much criticism?
I never cared much about the news. As a judge, I implemented the law. I never wanted to take part in debates. I didn’t know either what sort of duties this position entailed. Only after receiving the call, I tried to find out and learned at the same time about the controversy.
Did the information influence your decision?
Not really. I don’t know. Perhaps because of my background. We are used to taking decisions amid chaos and uproars but we still take them, don’t we?
How about your view of the KPK law at the moment?
I try to look at it from the other side. I see that the board’s duty here is to act as counterbalance between the state and perpetrators. We must maintain balance everywhere, right?
The new KPK law is perceived to aim at weakening the KPK. What is your opinion?
Ask the people who said it. In my opinion, because I’m already inside, I can’t say anymore whether it weakens or strengthens. As a board member, I will perform my duties to the best of my ability. I think our objectives are the same—to punish the wrong, to give sanctions to those who are proven guilty.
You’ve handled corruption cases under the previous law. What is the difference between the old law and the new one?
In principle, there is no significant difference in handling cases, court hearing, prosecution, etc. The new law emphasizes KPK’s authority to execute (court verdicts). It was not explicitly stipulated in the previous law. In terms of court proceeding, it is run as usual using the same criminal code. Judges don’t have to adjust anything.
Was there any special message from the President for the board?
He stressed that we must play it by the book. Stamp out corruption!