Fiasco at the Villages Ministry
Alleged trading of postings within the Villages Ministry shows a major flaw in the practice of good governance. Placement of politicians in ministries are most often problematic.
THE unsavory news that position brokers are hard at play offering postings of key functions in the Ministry of Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration needs to be thoroughly investigated into. Law enforcement apparatus investigating the cases would do well to promptly query high-ranking officers rudely disadvantaged by this state of affairs. If left to fester, the villages ministry’s performance will very quickly deteriorate, in turn creating detriment for the general public.
Rumors about shady practices in the villages ministry have long been rife. Yet it was only recently a handful of officials in the ministry decided to speak up bluntly to this magazine. Despite this, with their careers in the bureaucracy on the balance, we do not disclose their identities. They are claiming that the minister’s staff demand deposits between Rp1 billion to Rp3 billion for echelon I positions. Echelon II positions are offered at rates of a minimum of Rp500 million. Those persons refusing to cough up the bribe for cushy postings are shunted aside. Some are ‘parked’ as expert staff, or placed in other non-structural postings.
Unfortunately, this sort of practice is nothing new. We are reminded how two years ago, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) revealed cases of position brokering in the ministry of religion. The then General Chair of the United Development Party (PPP), Muhammad Romahurmuziy, was caught red-handed accepting a bribe from the candidate office head for the East Java region. In 2017, the Commission for State Civilian Apparatus (KASN) calculated that in a single year, some Rp35 trillion circulates under the practice of position brokerage in all levels of government.
Villages Minister Abdul Halim Iskandar admits to knowing about the rumors of position brokering within his ministry. But the Nation Awakening Party (PKB) politician, who also happens to be the elder brother of PKB General Chair and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR), Muhaimin Iskandar, declared the accusation as having no base. Abdul Halim also waved aside the rumor that his staff member, Ahmad Iman Syukri, acts as a go-between for appointments in echelon I and echelon II positions in the villages ministry.
The inspectorate-general of the villages ministry would do good to look further into the suspicion of position trading. It should show no qualms or reluctance in investigating those persons closest to the minister. The KASN and the Republic of Indonesia Ombudsman should also verify the many grievances regarding this matter and act upon the complaints. If these internal and external mechanisms do not start wheels moving, it is only fitting if we suspect a major flaw in the implementation of good governance principles in this country.
Aside from being entangled in the matter of position trading, the villages ministry is also accused of non-transparent recruitment of village assistants. Several parties have queried the high dominance of PKB cadres in these positions. There are currently 35,000 village assistants whose duties are to scrutinize accountability of village fund distribution totaling Rp72 trillion for almost 75,000 villages throughout Indonesia. It is imperative the villages ministry is transparent in their conduct to avoid accusation of politicizing a state position to benefit political party interests.
This suspicion is not without cause. The lobster larvae corruption case by Gerindra Party politician, Edhy Prabowo, while he was minister of marine affairs and fisheries, and the robbery of social assistance funds by Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician, Juliari Batubara, while he was minister of social affairs, have made the public antsy. Politicians in ministerial positions are often associated with rolling out the red carpet to benefit their own parties.
There are two ways to ensure robbery of ministries by politicians do not continue. Firstly, the president should appoint ministers based on their capabilities and track record in the tasks they are assigned. The political affiliation of a minister should not be a priority in the equation. Currently, there is a sense President Joko Widodo has put the matter of ministerial selection in the hands of the political party general chairs. The competence of each politician is hardly given priority consideration.
If practical politics as a way for power-sharing means meritocracy takes a back seat, there is the second way. The President has to ensure appropriate law enforcement systems are in place. Thus, any and all irregularities would be quickly detected and given rapid and heavy sanctions. The problem though is, after the DPR ratified a revision to the law governing the KPK at the end of 2019, the main motor of the anti-corruption body no longer has much kick.
As a result, with no meritocracy and robust system of law enforcement in place, there is no guarantee politicians would be capable of curbing their desire to rob the resources of the ministry they are supposed to be managing. Obviously political parties need financial resources to fund their activities. Since this is the case, the public can only gawp as they see misdeeds conducted over and over again.