“Corrupt” Indonesian Koran Procurement hits the headlines

Pondok Indah Mall, Jakarta

My sister and brother in law are teachers, and they and my two nephews have lived in Jakarta for over 20 years now. Indonesia has changed enormously in that time. There were few western shops for instance when they arrived; now, there are shopping malls to rival anything in the US or Europe. The international school in which they teach was once mainly for American kids whose parents worked for large corporations in the country; now the sons and daughters of the emerging Indonesian “middle class” dominate.

But I don’t think we’ve had an interesting procurement story from there until now. And this is  really noteworthy, combining as it does politics, families, religion, violence and corruption. There doesn’t appear to be any sex in the mix, but otherwise, it covers all the angles really.

The Jakarta Globe reports that  Dendy Prasetya,  the son of Golkar Party lawmaker Zulkarnaen Djabar, has been arrested as part of an investigation into procurement corruption. The two men are accused of accepting bribes of Rp 4 billion (around $400,000) in relation to a government contract, let by the Religious Affairs Ministry, for the supply of Korans.  Dendy is a director of the company awarded the Rp 20 billion ($2.1 million) contract.

But Dendy’s arrest was delayed until he could be moved from hospital, where he has been receiving treatment following a nasty car accident. He has a broken leg, so the Corruption Eradication Commission has kindly allowed him to recover somewhat before moving him to prison, where he will share a cell with his father because of his injuries.

Zulkarnaen, who sits in the House of Representatives, admitted to corruption related to the procurement in August last year and tendered his resignation from the House Budget Committee. There are also investigations going on into another case, for the supply of laboratory equipment into Muslim schools.  These incidents have led for calls to abolish the Religious Affairs Ministry, with commentators pointing out that Indonesia is one of only two countries in the world to have such a government department, the other being Israel.

Indonesia is a young country, and its parliamentary democracy is even younger. In some ways, we might actually argue that this case is indicative of a government and public administration maturing. In the most corrupt countries you don’t see people thrown in prison for corruption – at least, not following proper criminal proceedings and public trials. And you don’t tend to get a free press reporting these things.  Indonesia still has some way to go however - it ranks joint 100th (out of 182 countries) in the latest Transparency International “Corruption Perceptions Index”, alongside countries such as  Argentina, Malawi, Mexico – better than Nigeria, Russia or the Philippines, but slightly behind Romania, Gambia and Thailand for instance.

Of course, this type of corruption couldn’t happen here in the UK , could it (?!)  And why would any of our senior politicians bother taking bribes of a few hundred £K whilst they’re in office, when they can make millions legitimately once they move on – like ex Prime Minister, Tony Blair, with revenues of £16M at just one of his firms last year.

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