Conflicts of interest of two millennial members of the special staff shows the poor accountability within Jokowi’s administration.
JOKOWI was wrong from the outset: appointing members of the presidential special staff from the millennial generation without giving them clear job descriptions. If he wants to hear the voices of young people, he could invite them regularly to the Palace without actually recruiting them. The appointment of seven special staffers from the millennials has bloated the bureaucracy. Appointed to echelon I level, they now have echelon II and echelon III officials, along with the rest of the bureaucracy and facilities—offices, secretaries, drivers, aides, official cars and government housing. Jokowi has not kept his own campaign promise to establish a lean government.
We subsequently learned that the problem was not simply the president’s flirtation with the idea of bringing young people on board. The resignations of two special staffers last week was the climax of a deeper problem: conflicts of interest .
The first to go was Adamas Belva Syah Devara. The founder of Ruang Raya Indonesia resigned from his position following widespread gossip. Ruang Raya is a technology startup that was appointed by the government to partner it in the pre-employment card program. Ruangguru, as Belva’s company is better known, was appointed as one of the platforms in a project valued at Rp5.6 trillion from the total budget of Rp20 trillion without having to submit a tender. Although Belva has since resigned from the special staff, Ruangguru has not withdrawn from the project it was awarded.
Belva’s defense that as a member of the special staff he was not directly involved in the decision-making of the pre-employment training program shows a lack of awareness of the principles of good governance. Conflicts of interest arise when a public official is also the awardee of a project—even if the position he or she holds is not directly linked to the project.
The next casualty was Andi Taufan Garuda Putra. This special staffer also resigned after issuing an official letter asking for support from subdistrict heads to help his company spread information about the dangers of the coronavirus. Andi is the managing director of Amartha Mikro Fintek, the company responsible for the Covid-19 information campaign of the ministry of village affairs, the development of disadvantaged regions and transmigration.
As a member of the special staff, Andi was tasked with giving the president inputs, suggestions and advice. The issuing of a letter directly to subdistrict heads clearly encroaches on the authority of the chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and that of regional leaders. The president had previously appointed the BNPB chief as chairman of the Covid-19 taskforce and had also ordered regional leaders to chair the taskforces in their regions. Apart from the bureaucratic inappropriacy, Andi’s letter and the involvement of his company in a government project stands out clearly as a conflict of interest of a state official.
These issues with the special staff are not the only example. Besides this, there was the involvement of Pandu Patria Sjahrir, nephew of Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan. Pandu is the man who brought the owner of SoftBank Japan, Masayoshi Son, to meet with President Jokowi to discuss the funding for the new capital in East Kalimantan. As well as the family connection, Pandu is also the director of Toba Bara Sejahtra, a company owned by Luhut.
Family connections linked to business and political interests damage the image of the government. The president should take action to stop this type of cronyism—once he improves his own understanding about the importance of accountability in governance.