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Download by: [Universitas Maritim Raja Ali Haji] Date: 19 January 2016, At: 20:27

ISSN: 0007-4918 (Print) 1472-7234 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cbie20

Combating Corruption in Indonesia? The

Ombudsman and the Assets Auditing Commission

Stephen Sherlock

To cite this article: Stephen Sherlock (2002) Combating Corruption in Indonesia? The

Ombudsman and the Assets Auditing Commission, Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 38:3, 367-383, DOI: 10.1080/00074910215532

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00074910215532

Published online: 17 Jun 2010.

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ISSN0007-4918print/ISSN1472-7234online/02/030367-17 ©2002IndonesiaProjectANU


The promise to combat corruption has

been a central element in the rhetoric of

Indonesian governments since the end of

the Soeharto regime in May 1998. But like

the hopes for reformasias a whole, early

expectations of change have largely been

disappointed (King 2000). The record of

the three post-Soeharto presidents, B.J.

Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid and

Megawati Sukarnoputri, in fighting

sources and cases of corruption has been

patchy (Hamilton-Hart 2001). There

have been some initiatives on the legis

-lative front, one or two prominent cases

have been pursued and some anti-cor

-ruption bodies have been established.

Under the Habibie administration,Law

31/99 on corruption created special pro

-visions for investigating corrupt acts by

public officials, and provided for the es

-tablishment of an anti-corruption com

-mission. Law 28/99 created the KPKPN

(Komisi Pemeriksa Kekayaan Penye

-lenggara Negara, Commission to Audit

the Wealth of State Officials, or Assets

Auditing Commission), and a presiden

-tial decree by Abdurrahman Wahid

created a National Ombudsman’s Com

-mission (Komisi Ombudsman Nasional,

KON) in 2000. One of the most promi

-nent individuals with a reputation for

corruption, the former close associate of

Soeharto, Bob Hasan, has been gaoled.

The most high profile case has been that

of ‘Tommy Soeharto’ (the former

president’s son, Hutomo Mandala

Putera), who was convicted of corrupt

land dealings, went into hiding and

then had his conviction overturned by

the Supreme Court. He was later re












Stephen Sherlock


Earlyoptimismthatpost-Soehartogovernmentswouldleadasystematiccampaign againstcorruptionhaslargelybeendisappointed.Thecreationoftheombudsman andtheAssetsAuditingCommission(KPKPN)werehopefulsigns,butbothinitia -tivesaresymptomatic ofthe weaknessesbesetting Indonesia’santi-corruptionef -forts. Despitetheir best endeavours, bothorganisations have weakpowers, are under-resourced,receiveonlytokenpoliticalsupportandexistinisolationfromother investigativeandenforcementagencies.Internationalresearchsuggeststhatofficial effortstoeliminatecorruptionareeffectiveonlyaspartofacoordinatedcampaign toreformadministration,policymaking,legislativeinstitutionsandthejudiciary. Threatenedexposureorpunishmentofcorruptofficialsisnotenough:alltheinstitu -tionalincentivesanddisincentivesforabuseofpublicofficeforprivategainmustbe confronted.InIndonesiatheproblemisthatmostofthoseempoweredtotakesuch initiativeshavenoincentivetodosobecausetheyprofitfromthestatusquo.


arrested and, along with other charges,

was accused of the murder of one of the

judges who convicted him of corruption.

In July 2002 he was gaoled for 15 years.

campaign by members of the legislature

to unseat him. It has not been regained

since Megawati’s accession to power in

July 2001. Megawati has made a num

-ber of statements committing her gov

-ernment to combating corruption, but

they have remained at the level of gen

-eral promises and exhortations to the

nation to abstain from corrupt activities.

There are no indications that she has

developed a comprehensive anti

-corruption strategy or that she has se

-riously thought about how to develop

one. The investigation into the corrupt

Soeharto billions has evaporated and

the ‘Tommy’ case has once again shown

up the dysfunctional nature of the

legal system. The governor of Bank In

-donesia, Syahril Sabirin, was sen

-tenced to three years imprisonment

for his alleged involvement in the

Bank Bali case, but the conviction was

later overturned by a higher court

(Kompas, 30/8/02).Akbar Tanjung, the

speaker of the DPR (People’s Represen

-tative Council, Indonesia’s parliament)

and leader of the Golkar party, was de

-tained as a suspect on charges of using

public funds for private political ends,

but was able to use his influence to be

released. Although later convicted and

sentenced to three years gaol, Akbar was

released pending an appeal and at the

time of writing remains as leader of the

legislature. In the meantime, the bill to

establish the Anti-corruption Commis

-sion, which Law 31/99 required to be cre

-rations to eliminate corruption results

from the interaction between a lack of

political will at the highest levels of

government and a lack of attention to

the wide range of reforms in state in

-stitutions such as the judiciary, the

bureaucracy, the military and the leg

-islature that would be required to at

-tack the systemic nature of corruption

in Indonesia. It contends that the lack

of progress in combating corruption is

fundamentally due to a failure of po

-litical will on the part of successive

post-Soeharto governments but that,

even if the current government were to

launcha serious anti-corruption effort,

the generally simplistic understanding

of the nature and origins of corruption

implicit in most official actions would

hamper this effort. The fitful and un

-coordinated character of government

anti-corruption initiatives both reflects

and is reinforced by the fact that the

legislature, the judiciary and the bu

-reaucracy are permeated with corrup

-tion and are controlled by networks of

individuals who have every interest in

resisting reform. The paper considers

the examples of the KON and the

KPKPN as illustrative of the fate of in

-stitutions that have insufficient politi

-cal backing and scant resources and


ficials. Ombudsmen’s institutions vary

throughout the world (Manning 1999:

1–3; Pope 1999: 46, 83), but generally they

have a responsibility to receive and in

-vestigate reports from the public about

government administration being per

-formed contrary to law, unfairly, or with

excessive delay; to make recommenda

-tions to rectify and eliminate any im

-proper or poor administrative conduct

revealed in the investigations; and to re

-port, usually to the national legislature,

on their activities, including investiga

-tions undertaken on their own initiative.

In a few cases, ombudsmen also have the

power to investigate illegal activity and

to prosecute such cases (International

Ombudsman Institute 2001).

It is generally considered that, to be

effective, an ombudsman must have the

power to compel government agencies

to respond to its inquiries, to obtain all

documents relevant to an investigation

and to question officials. Most ombuds

-men’s institutions do not have the power

to enforce their recommendations, but

in most countries with an active media,

legislature and civil society, the pressure

of public and parliamentary exposure is

a powerful inducement for government

agencies to respond positively to recom

-mendations from an ombudsman. An

ombudsman investigates all types of

maladministration and illegality, not

just cases of corruption, but it may un

-cover evidence of corruption in the

course of investigating complaints. The

ombudsman then needs the power ei

-ther to prosecute cases of corruption or,

as is usually the case, to pass on infor

-mation to anti-corruption agencies and/

or law enforcement agencies.

The creation of the National Om

-budsman’s Commission in Indonesia

followed a commitment made by Ab

-durrahman Wahid in his presidential

inauguration speech of October 1999.

This became embodied in Presidential

Decree (Keppr es) 44/200 0, and the

complaints from the public about

maladministration, and request clari

-fication or information from the gov

-ernment agency concerned; to make

recommendations to the agency and

monitor its compliance with them; and

to report on its activities to the president

of Indonesia.

The institutions covered by the decree

include the judiciary and the courts, the

police, and state-owned corporations,

parliaments and government depart

-ments at the central and regional level.


Although the KON has the role that is

usually assigned elsewhere to an om

-budsman, it is critically lacking in the

powers of enforcement.1It cannot com

-pel agencies or individual government

servants to respond to its inquiries, to

release documents or other information,

or to allow it access to their premises. It

also cannot enforce its recommendations

or compel agencies to act on its advice.

Any recommendation for legal action or

prosecution must be passed on to the

police or the prosecutor’s office for

action. In the words of one of the com

-mission members, the ombudsman is ‘a

Magistrate of Influence not a Magistrate

of Sanctions … the recommendationsof

the Commission are not legally but mor

-ally binding’ (Surachman 2000: 2).

What this means in practice is that

government agencies are not bound to


give any substantive response to the

sponses. Both simple acknowledgments

and obstructionist responses are in

-cluded along with the rest. The figures

issues of systematic and regular failure

in administration, or do not involve the

possibility of high level corruption. But

if no responses are being received in the

major cases of discrimination, abuse of

power, corruption or other maladmin

-istration, then the ombudsman is argu

-ably ineffective. Getting a full measure

of government agencies’ responses to

the KON is difficult in the absence of

meaningful data.

Perhaps not unexpectedly,members

of the commission have developed gen

-erally optimistic interpretations of their

experience with the state apparatus.

Some members have expressed sur

-prise at the quality of the cooperation

they have received, especially from the

courts, and have suggested that the lim

-reaucrats to improve their services,

rather than as a ‘big brother’ relating

to government employees in a hostile

and inquisitorial manner (interview,

February 2001). Commission member

Masdar Mas’udi said that officials were

generally quite open to discussing cases

and general issues, but he was less em

-phatic that this always led to the resolu

-tion of complaints (interview, February

2001). Another commission member,

Sri Urip, a former business executive,

was of the opinion that agencies pre

-ferred not to be seen to be at logger

-heads with the ombudsman over low

level matters, but she expressed reser

-vations about the ombudsman’s capac

-ity to resolve major cases (interview,

February 2001).

Standard international practice is to

provide an ombudsman with the power

to obtain information, documents or

other records from an agency, or an in

-dividual within an agency, within a

specified period of time (International

Ombudsman Institute 2001). Without

such power, the ombudsman’s inquiry

can simply be ignored or delayed for so

long as to render it ineffectual. The ex

-perience of the Indonesian ombudsman

is also that agencies will sometimes sim

-ply deny that any cause for complaint

exists, leaving the ombudsman with no

power to persist with an investigation

other than to send another letter to the

agency (interview with chief ombuds

-man, January 2001). An ombudsman

should also have the authority to call

witnesses and to examine them under

oath. This power may be necessary to

allow the full version of events in a case


to be obtained from individuals who

might otherwise choose to obstruct an

investigation. In addition, an ombuds

-man should have the power to enter the

premises of an agency whose actions are

the subject of a complaint, if it judges

that this is necessary to ensure that all

documents and other relevant informa

-tion are being supplied. In the case of

Sweden, where the concept originated,

the ombudsman even has the power to

initiate prosecution if it finds evidence

of illegal behaviour.


At the heart of the KON’s problem of

an institution with powers in accordance

with international practice. The KON

fulfilled its commitment to present a bill

to the Ministry of Justice, but it was met

with non-interest and obstruction from

within the ministry. The bill was sub

-sequently submitted directly to the

DPR, whose Legislation Office (Badan

Legislasi) agreed to consider it for ac

-ceptance as a DPR Initiative Bill (as dis

-tinct from a government bill). At the

time of writing the Legislation Council

and the KON were still negotiating over

its content.

As an interim measure before the pas

-sage of the bill, the chief ombudsman

raised with then President Abdurrah

-man Wahid the possibility of extending

the powers of the commission under the

authority of the Keppres. Although the

latter is reported to have given in

-principle agreement, there was no

progress on the proposal before his dis

-missal as president. There have been no

reports of President Megawati propos

-ing to issue a stronger decree.

Not only does the Keppres not allow

the KON to force government instru

-mentalitiesto cooperate, it also requires

that the ombudsman report not to par

-liament but to the president. Internation

-ally, an ombudsman’s obligation to

report to parliament is seen as an im

-portant part of the accountability of ex

-ecutive government to the legislature,

and as a useful tool for parliament to

scrutinise the activities of the executive.

It also makes the ombudsman itself ac

-countable to the people’s representatives

and to the public.

Parliamentary accountability is an

internationally recognised principle for

an ombudsman, but the performanceof

the Indonesian legislature since its re

-constitutionas a democratically elected

body after Soeharto’s demise gives

cause for doubt about how effective the

DPR would be as a support for the om

-budsman. First, the widespread reputa

-tion for corruption among legislators

themselves suggests that many may be

hostile to a body that might reveal cases

of corruption and the practices that en

-courage it. Second, there have been

proliferatingreports about the low level

of participation in the regular work of

the DPR by many of its members (JP,

10/12/01;11/12/01; 15/12/01;1/2/02;

4/6/02; 12/6/02; 28/9/02), suggesting

that output from the ombudsman,

whether in the form of an annual report

or of individual investigations, would

be ignored by many legislators. At best

it might be used selectively for short

-term political advantage.


The lack of real political backing for the

ombudsman is also clear from the

government’s unwillingness to provide

adequate funding. For about the first six

months of its operation, the KON did not

receiveanyfunds from the state budget!

Members of the commission performed


their duties without any payment at all.

During that time the ombudsman was

almost entirely funded by the Asia

Foundation, together with assistance in

kind from sympathetic individuals.The

commission was housed in what was de

-scribed as a ‘storage space’ in a cosmet

-ics company (interview with KON

members Sri Urip and R.M. Surachman,

and commission staff, January 2001).All

office facilities, down to desks and

chairs, had to be borrowed. The commis

-sion did not move into permanent ac

-commodation until December 2001, and

even this was possible only because of

the personal connections of one of the

commission members.2The only regu

-lar source of support from the state bud

-get is for the salaries of staff, who are

paid according to their functional clas

-sification in the civil service.

Underfunding sends negative signals

to the public and government agencies

about the government’s commitment to

combating corruption and improving

accountability and government services.

It also limits the ombudsman’s capacity

to set itself up to do its job—to obtain

appropriate facilities and equipment and

to hire sufficient staff and train them to a

professional level. The ombudsman’s

staff need training in face-to-face public

service; in interviewing techniques; in

analysis of complex cases; in report writ

-ing and provision of advice; in under

-standing the machinery of government;

and in knowledge of laws, regulations

and procedures and of legal and judicial

institutions. Members of the commission

are of a common view that they need high

quality, well paid and well trained staff,

and admit freely they have yet to reach

the standard they would like. They are

also acutely aware that part of the back

-ground to official corruption in Indonesia

is low salaries, and that the commission

will not be immune from pressures to

accept unofficial payments.

The ombudsman’s main response to

the problem of inadequate resources has

been to seek foreign donor funding. The

Asia Foundation provided around

Rp 400 million during the KON’s first

year of operation, and continues to fund

both routine and developmentalexpen

-diture. An international donor consor

-tium, the Partnership for Governance

Reform in Indonesia, will provide $1

million for a program of institutional

development over three years.3

One way in which donor funding has

been used is to provide a salary supple

-ment so that staff of the KON are paid

at a level appropriate to their skills and

duties, to help eliminate the incentives

to corruption. Staff are therefore paid

at a higher level than their civil service

counterparts,with the supplement paid

in the form of an honorarium, since civil

service regulations do not allow em

-ployees to receive an official salary

higher than their designated level. In

the opinion of the deputy ombudsman,

the honorarium is still insufficient to

make up a salary that can attract high

quality staff and reduce the temptation

to ‘take gifts’ for providing services.4

an effective and non-corrupt institution,

but dependence on outside support

could also come at the cost of channel

-ling the activities of the ombudsman into

paths that it might not otherwise have

followed. At the very least, the docu

-mentation required by international

agencies can divert a lot of intellectual

and administrative resources. Aid al

-ways comes with conditionality, but the

advice of foreign development‘experts’

has not always proved the most appro

-priate to local circumstances. A reputa

-tion for heavy foreign funding might


also leave the ombudsman vulnerable

to political attack if its investigative

work creates enemies inside the bureau

-cracy or beyond.

MembershipoftheCommission: InterimorPermanent?

The problem of insufficient funds is criti

-cal to the all-important issue of who will

lead the institution as members of the

commission.The members received no

remuneration for the first six months,

and have since received a salary of just

Rp 2 million (about $200) per month.

Even this has been paid on an irregular

basis. It is clearly far below the level that

people with comparable qualifications

could earn in the private sector, and

completely inadequate to attract candi

-dates with the requisite experience and

standing. The problem has been dealt

with by recruiting retired people with

independent means, or people with in

-come from other positions, with the ex

-pectation that they will work on a

part-time basis for the KON.

Employing commission members on

a part-time basis was a reasonable strat

-egy in the circumstances, but it is not

an approach that should be used in the

long term. Being a member of the KON

is not like working on a board or for a

commission that requires only periodic

attendance at meetings and other occa

-sional commitments. The function is

not one of oversight or monitoring, but

demands regular and sustained hours

of duty in the commission’s office in

order to handle a constant flow of case

-work. Since they decide on recommen

-dations to government agencies about

every case in their area (these decisions

then being ratified by the chief ombuds

-man), members need to be in almost

daily contact with commission staff,

and must keep up a regular output of

Corruption Watch, probably Indonesia’s

foremost anti-corruption NGO (non

-government organisation), and a well

known public figure deeply involved in

many activities. Masdar Mas’udi is a

prominent figure in the traditionalist

Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama

(NU). Sri Urip has become fully in

-volved with work in overseas donor

support for governance reform.

Since its establishment in March 2000

compensation, but commission mem

-bers have listed this as a key factor

(interview with Sunaryati Hartono,

February 2001). In any case, the current

members were intended only to be in

-terim office holders who would relin

-quish their positions when a new

commission was constituted after the

ombudsman was provided with legis

-lative backing. As we have seen, the bill

is still in transit at the DPR, with no

clear date for its passage. The current

members may have been appropriate

for an interim body that was soon to be

superseded, but the delay has meant

that the commission as it is currently

composed is unviable.

Operation andManagementofthe Ombudsman’sCommission

Despite the unpromising circumstances

described above, it should be said that

the members of the commission and


their staff appear to have made an hero

-ic effort to create a viable, functioning

institution—something that should not

be dismissed lightly when so much of

the Indonesian state apparatus is dys

-functional and corrupt. The chief om

-budsman and the other members seem

to have given considerable attention to

ensuring that the commission is a well

managed organisation, with clear pro

-cedures, staffed with qualified people

who are committed to good service de

-livery. International experts and aid

organisations have generally been

impressed with its commitment to

organisational development and inter

-nal good governance.

Despite the almost complete absence

of official financial support, the KON

has managed to establish the physical

and institutional infrastructure for a

working commission. With some for

-eign assistance it was able to set up per

-manent office premises and hire suitable

personnel. The experience and talents of

the commissioners themselves have en

-abled the commission to develop clear


in the critical area of case management.

They have also invested considerable

effort in developing a corporate identity

among the staff and a sense of the im

-portance of internal good governance.

The achievements of the commission

so far are a good indication of the limi

-tations and possibilities of a commission

operating within current constraints,

and of the importance of providing it

with proper powers and funding. KON

reports show that government agencies

have answered most of its correspon

-dence even though they are under no

compulsion to do so. A small study of

the ombudsman’s case files has shown

that its requests for clarification and rec

-ommendationsto government agencies

have sometimes been very helpful to

people dealing with state institutions.

The interventionof the ombudsman has

sometimes cleared obstacles for com

-plainants or restarted stalled processes

of the civil service or the judiciary. This

is not to say that all the complainants’

cases would eventually have been re

-solved in an entirely satisfactory way,

but the ombudsman has, at the very

least, started processes moving.

However, the instances where the

KON has had some effect have been in

aggrieved employee and, in particular,

having judges who have made suspect

wonderful innovation. One complainant

wrote to the ombudsman, ‘Thanks be to

God that our Republic has an ombuds

-man …’.5 At a time when progress in

governance reform appears to have

stalled, even the modest achievements

of the ombudsman should not be under

-rated. Apart from the individuals in

-volved in particular cases, the work of

the ombudsman can contribute to en

-couraging public demand for something

that is very basic but has been denied to

Indonesiansfor decades: efficient, clean

and accountable government services.

There is little sign, however, that

KON members are giving thought to

non-conventional or indirect ways of

using the limited powers they have

available. There is, for example, wide

scope for the KON to use data gathered

from complaints to build public support

for change in the processes of govern

-ment. As the number of cases continues

to accumulate they will provide a pri

-mary source for research on trends in


corruption and maladministration, for

publicising key cases, and for launching

public information campaigns about

ways to overcome corruption and bad

governance practices. In the early

months of the commission’s existence it

received good media coverage, but it has

long since slipped from the public eye.

The ombudsman needs to highlight

major cases of maladministration or cor

-ruption and prominent individuals who

might be implicated, such as heads of

government agencies and state-owned

corporations, judges or politicians, and

to work for constant media attention.

Internationally it is also common for

an ombudsman to launch inquiries or

investigations on its own initiative. Such

investigations may be motivated by a

particular individual’s complaint or by

the ombudsman’s view that an issue that

has come to its attention (e.g. through

the media) warrants investigation. They

are generally directed at instances of

systematic misuse of power by a gov

-ernment agency, or at its failure to deal

effectively or fairly with a particular

administrative problem.6For the Indo

-tion and widely publicising the results.



The KPKPN was an initiative of the Ha

-bibie administration in the first flush of

enthusiasm for reformasi. Under the

mandate of Law 28/99 and Presidential

Decree 81/99, the commissionwas es

-tablished in January 2001 with the au

-thority (1) to carry out audits of the

wealth of state officials in the legislature,

executive, judiciary and state enterprises

and regional business bodies; and (2) to

receive reports of official corruption

from the public and to initiate the gath

-ering of evidence.

Internationally,a function such as this

is generally the responsibility of an anti

-corruption commission. The recently

establishedCounter-corruption Commis

-sion in Thailand regards the collection of

asset declarations by public officials as

one of its major activities.The legislatures

of many countries have laws or internal

regulations for the declaration of assets

or financial interests by members of par

-liament. Indonesia appears to be alone in

establishing a separate agency for regis

-tering information about the assets of of

-ficials in all three arms of government

and state enterprises.


The powers and financial resources of

argue, however, that certain provisions

of the criminal code making it an offence

to disregard a government request or to

supply false information could be used

to prosecute officials. The commission

also does not have the power to seize

documents, to question officials or to

check bank accounts or other financial

records. The KPKPN can request clari

-fication about information provided to

it, and officials are expected to permit it

ceives the official’s explicit permission.


The chief commissioner of the

Significantly, Megawati herself has not

made any statement on the matter. In

any case, the passage of such legislation

through the DPR—let alone effective

legislation—is extremely unlikely. Inde

-pendent executive action to empower

the KPKPN would be a more believable

indication of Megawati’s intentions than

second-hand expressions of support for

changed laws.

The budget of Rp 24 billion (about

$2.5 million) for the KPKPN’s first year

of operation was insufficient for the

physical and human infrastructure nec

-essary to process the huge volume of

information received and to analyse the

data for the purposes of uncovering cor

-ruption. The commission is housed in

cramped accommodation packed with

completed and incomplete declaration

forms. Most of the commission’s staff are

occupied with routine work such as data

entry. The KPKPN does not have the

funds to hire the specialised legal, finan

-cial and investigative expertise that is

essential to making sense of the mass of

questions will arise as were suggested

above in the case of the ombudsman’s



The main activity of the KPKPN has

been to send out forms requesting offi

-cials to make a complete listing of their

property. It distributed25,000 forms, of

which less than half had been com

-pleted and returned more than a year

after the commission was established.7

The main use made of the information

from the forms so far is to pass it to the

press. In the case of leading political

figures, this has generated considerable

publicity. The commission has also

been able to win some media attention

for members of the government, the

DPR and regional assemblies (DPRD)

who have failed to make declarations.

17/5/01; 9/10/01; 16/11/01).

On the other hand, the KPKPN has

been to some extent a victim of the rela

-tively high profile it has achieved. Sto

-ries about officials and politicians not

filing declarations, and the fact that even

some of the most senior members of cen

-tral and local governments have not

bothered to respond to its approaches,

vestigations into the declarations of 30.

The chief commissioner announced that

he would pass on the details to the po

-lice, the attorney general’s office and the

military police if the commission’s in

-vestigations proved that the officials’

assets had been illegally obtained (JP,


1/3/02). He did not clarify how the com

-question officials or to check financial

records other than those nominated by

each official, it means very little to say

that the declarations have been verified.

A key criticism has been that the com

-mission itself, with 35 members, is too

large to make efficient use of the re

-sources available. Many anti-corruption

organisationshave claimed that its size

makes the KPKPN unwieldy in practi

-cal terms and vulnerable to political di

-vision and differences in strategic

approach. It has even been suggested

that the decision on its size was a delib

-erate ploy by interested parties to ren

-der the commission ineffective.

In theory the KPKPN could make an

important contribution to accountabil

-ity of state officials by increasing the risk

that corrupt activities might be exposed.

Public disclosure of assets and expen

-diture far beyond their stated incomes

could seriously embarrass officials, es

-pecially elected ones. The discomfort felt

by many judges over the KPKPN’s rev

-elations about under-declaration of as

-sets by members of the judiciary was

underlined when the Indonesian Judges

Association (IKAHI) complained that

such disclosures could affect judges’

morale and ‘ability to pass independent

decisions’ (StraitsTimes, 1/8/02). Other

reports revealed that the attorney gen

-eral himself had significantly under

-stated his assets to the KPKPN, failing

to mention his recent construction of a

Rp 5 billion (about $550,000) house in

Jakarta (JP, 3/10/02).

More importantly, the information

contained in declarations could, by in

-clusion or omission, provide evidence

for the investigation and prosecution of

corruption by an anti-corruption com

-mission or law enforcement agencies. If

the supply of false or incomplete infor

-mation were subject to prosecution, cor

-rupt officials could be punished without

the actual corrupt transactions having

to be proved.



attracting suitable personnel to lead the

institutions themselves. But even if

these bodies were to have better pow

-ers of enforcement, increased financial

resources and improved leadership,

how would they fare in the current in

-stitutional environment? Would their

individual or combined activities be

sufficient to have any significant effect

on the pervasive presence of corruption

in Indonesia today?

For many years the study of corrup

-tion by scholars and public policy prac

-titioners was dominated by the idea

that corruption by its very nature was

not amenable either to measurement or

to systematic analysis. There were (and

continue to be) arguments that the no

-tion of corruption is a Western con

-struct and of no value in understanding

traditional societies, particularly those

with what came to be called ‘Asian val

-ues’. It was even said that corruption

could be desirable for ‘greasing the

wheels’ of government and commerce.

It was often implied or suggested that

combating corruption, particularly in

non-Western societies, was not only al

-most impossible but also unnecessary.


In more recent years a body of litera

-ture has grown up that attempts system

-atically to understand the nature and

functioning of corruption and to provide

advice to authorities in their efforts to

eliminate it. In addition to the more

scholarly material, some of this work is

a product of the attention being given

to ‘good governance’ by international

aid agencies and institutions such as the

World Bank, the Asian Development

Bank and the IMF (Lindsey and Dick

2002), a fact that has made it suspect in

some eyes (Theobald 1999). There have

been attempts to quantify international

relativities in corruption, most notably

by the international anti-corruption

NGO Transparency International (TI),

whose Corruption Perception Index re

-ceives considerable attention. The qual

-ity of data used to compile this index is

variable, and its findings are often used

crudely (especially by the media), but

TI has produced a useful tool for com

-paring countries and monitoring change

over time.

Particularly within the more policy

-oriented literature on anti-corruption

initiatives, there has been debate about

the effectiveness of institutions such as

ombudsmen and anti-corruption agen

-cies like KPKPN. Doig (1995: 151–65)

argues that anti-corruption agencies

‘may provide an effective means of pro

-moting probity in government and

protection of state income and expen

-diture’, but TI states bluntly that such

bodies ‘are more often failures than suc

-cesses’ (Pope 1999: 87).

Furthermore, it has been suggested

that anti-corruption agencies can them

-selves add to corruption, particularly

if they are, or threaten to become, ef

-fective in exposing those involved in it.

If they get close to uncovering power

-ful centres of corruption their activities

can be subverted by political interfer

-ence, and officials from the anti-corrup

-tion bodies themselves may be bribed.

Agencies can also be misused for po

-litical ends by government leaders

wishing to sully the reputationsof their

opponents, corruption by government

figures meanwhile being ignored.

Huther and Shah (2000: 12) have de

-veloped a framework for the evaluation

of anti-corruption initiatives,and argue

that ombudsmen and anti-corruption

agencies must be assessed in the con

-text of the wider political and gover

-nance environment of a particular

country. They conclude that the likeli

-hood of such institutions succeeding is

dependent on the level and pervasive

-ness of corruption in the country and

the overall quality of governance.There

is a degree of circularity in this argu

-ment, because it makes the almost self

-evident observation that if the quality

of governance in a given country was

high there would be little corruption.

But the key point is that an an ti

-corruption body will be effective only

to the extent that it operates within a

framework of accountable and trans

-parent judicial, bureaucratic and legis

-lative institutions.

Manning (1999) stresses the impor

-tance of strong political backing from all

arms of government,combined with in

-dependence from executive government

intervention, and adequate financial and

human resources. The effectiveness of

any particular anti-corruption agency

cannot be assessed in isolation from

other institutions of accountability and

law enforcement, and from the politi

-cal environmentin which it was created

and within which it operates. Anti

-corruption bodies create disincentives

to corrupt behaviour by increasing the

risks attaching to corrupt transactions,

but they cannot themselves reduce the

potential rewards of corruption (such

as those created by unaccountable mo

-nopoly control over state corporations


or bureaucratic mechanisms), and are

powerless if they are not backed by ef

-fective judicial and law enforcement


Klitgaard (1988) argues that corrup

-tion can be understood through the for

-mula C = M + D –A (corruption equals

monopoly plus discretion minus ac

-countability): corruption is more likely

to occur when officials have monopo

-listic control over state resources

(whether physical resources like those

owned by the state oil company, Perta

-mina, and the food distributionagency,

Bulog, or administrative powers such

as those controlled by taxation, customs

and industrial licensing agencies) and

a high level of discretion over who can

gain access to those resources, while at

the same time the mechanisms for hold

-ing these officials accountable for their

actions are weak or non-existen t.

Klitgaard’s point is that there are a

number of elements to the incentives

and disincentives that lead public offi

-cials and political leaders into corrupt

behaviour, and that these elements can

be understood in largely institutional

terms, that is, not in terms of individual

morality. Thus while many officials will

resist the temptations created by sole

and unaccountable control over re

-sources, some will not. In such circum

-stances, the corrupt usually ensure that

they force out, coopt or silence the non

-corrupt, because the incentives to do this

are so great.

Conversely, anti-corruption initia

-tives are likely to be effective to the ex

-tent that they attack the institutional

incentives to corruption and maximise

the disincentives. According to Klit

-gaard (1988), a way to measure the likely

success of an anti-corruption strategy is

to ask if it will reduce monopoly and/

or reduce discretion and/or increase ac

-countability. In Soeharto’s Indonesia,

monopolies were deliberately created,

and accountabilitywas eliminated with

the conscious intention of perpetuating

monopoly and discretion (Crouch 1978;

Robison 1986; Elson 2001). Eliminating

these arrangements today clearly re

-quires a multi-faceted strategy encom

-passing reform of the practices and

institutionsthat put unaccountablemo

-nopoly power into the hands of a privi

-leged few. Such a strategy will have to

overcome subversion and open opposi

-tion from those with a vested interest in

maintaining the status quo.

Most popular and media discussion

of corruption in Indonesia does not,

however, centre on institutionalreform

and the structural underpinnings of

corruption, but on the morality of those

who indulge in corruption, collusion

and nepotism. The elimination of cor

-moral failings of individuals, and thus

can be eliminated if moral rectitude can

be fostered among public officials and

business people. This allows leaders

such as Megawati to posture on the is

-sue of fighting corruption by making

speeches imploring the country’s lead

-ers to ‘jointly uphold the rule of law, po

-litical ethics and better social behaviour’,

as she did at a meeting of her party,

PDI-P (the People’s Democratic Party

of Struggle), in January 2002 (JP,


The few concrete measures taken

since May 1998 have focused on dis

-incentives, on accountability as a

mechanism to deter corrupt behaviour

through punishment. Thus the KON,

the KPKPN and indeed, if it is ever es


tablished, the Anti-corruption Commis

-sion are all designed to reduce corrup

-tion by increasing accountability, that is,

increasing the risk of exposure and pun

-ishment. Such disincentives are, of

course, an important part of an anti-cor

-ruption strategy, and a necessary tool

for preventing corruption and dealing

with its effects when it occurs. They do

not deal with the other factors in

Klitgaard’s equation, however: mo

-nopoly power and discretion. Corrup

-tion has so often been a highly

rewarding activity in Indonesia be

-cause particular people—from Soe

-harto himself to individuals such as

military officers who use their positions

to enrich themselves—have had mo

-nopoly power over state resources and

great discretion over who was able to

receive benefits from those resources.

If the institutions and procedures that

facilitate monopoly power and discre

-tion remain in place, the incentives for

corruption are likely to overwhelm the

disincentives created by anti-corruption

agencies focused on punishment. The

rewards from corruption allow corrupt

individuals to buy themselves immunity

from investigation or prosecution,or to

evade sanctions through inadequate

regulation of financial institutions or

ambiguously worded legislation. In

these circumstances, the few individu

-als who are exposed or prosecuted tend

to be ‘small fish’ without political pro

-tection, or the occasional ‘big fish’ who

falls out of favour with the ruling power

or loses out in passing political configu

-rations. Punishing the corrupt does not,

of itself, alter the conditions that make

corruption a low risk and high reward

activity. As Rose-Ackerman (1999: 162)


An anti-corruptionpolicywillnotbe veryusefulifitleavesinplacethere -strictive lawsand cumbersomepro -cesses that producedincentives for bribery in the first place. An anti -corruptionagencyoughttobeonlyone part ofalargerstrategy thatincludes morefundamentalreformsthatsupple -mentlawenforcementprograms.

In concrete terms, this means that

many elements of an effective anti

-corruption strategy are not necessarily

directly related to corruption at all, but

to the efficiency, effectiveness and ac

-countability (in financial, procedural

and policy terms) of the full range of

state institutions. The most obvious of

these is a properly functioning judicial

system, something that is absent in In

-used to prosecute corrupt officials. That

will only happen if law enforcement

agencies are effective, non-corrupt and

willing to take on powerful figures.

This in turn is unlikely to eventuate

unless members of the political elite are

preparedto act and are supported by a

vigorous civil society.

But beyond reform of the legal sys

-tem and the police, anti-corruption ef

-forts must also embrace reform of the

institutions where incentives for corrup

-tion exist and where entrenched prac

-tices and power relations make corrupt

behaviour endemic and systemic. The

first of these is the civil service, at both

administrative and policy level. The cur

-rent civil service is process based, not

results based, and performance is mea

-sured by obedience to one’s superiors.


Recruitment, promotion and pay are

structured around control of the service

by its senior echelons. Interactionswith

the public are regarded not as occasions

to deliver services but as opportunities

to levy informal taxes. Because account

-ability is entirely internal and is hierar

-chical, individual civil servants find it

either desirable to participate in corrupt

practices or impossible to combat such

practices because promotion, pay and

position are at stake. In addition, civil

service reform concerns not just the gov

-ernment administration itself, but also

state-owned corporations (which con

-trol a significant part of the Indonesian

In these circumstances,key elements in

controlling corruption in Indonesia in

-clude enforcing the accountability of

parliamentarians and the parliament as

an institution (including the parliamen

-tary bureaucracy), and issues such as

electoral laws and laws related to the

funding of political parties and election


The ar gument that corruption

greases the wheels of government and

commerce is, in a sense, correct—the

functional mechanism of the New Or

-der was patrimonialism, nepotism and

corruption (Crouch 1979; Elson 2001).

McLeod (2000) likens the system to a

business franchise: Soeharto distrib

-uted privileges to selected firms and

government officials, who repaid their

superiors both financially and politi

-cally. To dismantle such pervasive net

-works and practices (assuming indeed

that the majority of Indonesians do

want to end this system) requires the

often unglamorous work of institu

-tional reform of government and the

corporate sector.

The establishmentof agencies explic

-itly designed to combat corruption is a

necessary part of such reform, because

bodies like the KON and KPKPN are

mechanisms of accountability that pro

-vide one of the disincentivesto corrup

-tion. But anti-corruption agencies not

only fail to tackle the issues of incentives

and supports for corruption:as bureau

-cratic institutions they are themselves

subject to the same problems that beset

the state apparatus as a whole, includ

-ing weak management, chronic under

-funding and an absence of systems of

recruitment, training, promotion and

accountability that can produce quali

-fied professional staff as distinct from

rent seekers.

The essence of the problem confront

-ing the KON and the KPKPN is that

they are isolated institutionswhose for

-mation has not been part of a compre

-hensive anti-corruption strategy. Their

activities have received only fitful pub

-lic, media and government attention,

because their limited powers and re

-sources make it impossible for them to

mount a serious challenge to the

sources and perpetratorsof corruption.

Yet any efforts to strengthen these agen

-genuinely committed to making their

agencies work, but as long as they re

-main isolated and irrelevant to wider

government programs, their efforts will

largely be frustrated.



1 Thisassessmentoftheombudsmanisin -fluencedby Manning (1999), wholists fiveconditionsforaneffectiveombuds -man: politicalsupport fromthe three arms ofgovernment, includingthebu

-reaucracy; adequate resources; good

public perception;functional compe -tence; andanappropriate placewithin existingarrangementsforadministrative regulation.

2 TheofficehadbeenleasedbyUnilever,


Uripwas anexecutiveformanyyears. Because ofthese personal connections, the landlordagreed toletthepremises totheombudsmanataconcessionalrent. 3 ThePartnershipforGovernanceReform inIndonesiaisaconsortiumofinterna -tional donors, initiated bythe United

Nations Development Programme


Development Bank (ADB), and sup

-portedbymajorbilateraldonorssuchas theUK,theNetherlands,Australiaand theUS,whoseobjectiveistoassistIndo -nesian effortsto bringabout political reform.ItisoverseenbyalargelyIndo -nesiangoverningboardco-chairedbya former minister inthe Wahid govern -ment, Erna Witoelar, and the Islamic

scholar Nurcholish Madji d (www.


4 Interview withSunaryatiHartono.This viewisconsistentwiththeideathatlow salariesareamajorincentivetocorrup -tionin Indonesia, andwasbehindthe

grantingoflargesalaryincreasestohigh levelcivilservantsandjudgesduringthe Wahidadministration.Thereis,however, littleornoevidencethatthismeasurehas hadany effecton corruptioninthe bu -reaucracyorthejudiciary.Inthecaseof theombudsman,itwouldseemthatits verylimitedpowers wouldmakeitan unattractive target forthoseseeking to purchaseinfluence.Nevertheless,theau -thorwastoldthatKONstaffhad been offered‘gifts’,perhapsanindicationofthe entrenchedpublic expectation that the provisionofanygovernmentservicemust beaccompaniedbyextrapayments. 5 LettertotheKON,thankingitforitsin


6 The Australian ombudsman, for ex

-ample,publishedareportinMarch2001 onpracticesatadetentioncentreforille -galimmigrantsinAustralia,followinga publiccontroversy about alleged mis -treatmentofdetainees.InFebruary2001 italsopublishedareportintotheappli -cationofaparticulartaxregulation by theAustralianTaxationOfficefollowing acomplaintbroughttotheombudsman onbehalfof3,000peopleaffectedbythe regulation.

7 InaninterviewwiththeauthorinJuly 2001,membersoftheKPKPNsaidthat 25%offormshadbeenreturned,andby June2002 it wasreported that 31%of formshadbeen returned(‘Audit com -missionseekshelpfromdefiantmasters’, JP,14/6/02).


Crouch,Harold(1978),TheArmyandPolitics in Indonesia, Cornell University Press, IthacaNY.

Crouch,Harold(1979),‘Patrimonialismand MilitaryRuleinIndonesia’,WorldPolitics 31(4):571–87.

Doig,Alan(1995),‘GoodGovernmentand SustainableAnti-corruptionStrategies:A Role for Independent Anti-corruption Agencies?’,PublicAdministrationandDe



-ography, Cambridge University Press,


Hamilto n-Hart, Natasha (2001) , ‘Anti -corruptionStrategiesinIndonesia’,Bul

-letinofIndonesianEconomicStudies37(1): 65–82.


-corruption Policies and Programs: A

Framework for Evaluation’,WorldBank PolicyResearchWorkingPaper2501,World


Interna tio na l Ombudsman Institute

(20 01 ), The O mb udsman Concept,

w ww.law.ualbert a. ca/centres/io i/ brochure.htm.


King, Dwight(2000), ‘Corruption inIndo -nesia:ACurableCancer?’,JournalofIn



-tion,University ofCalifornia Press,Ber -keleyCA.


-ruptioninAsia:RethinkingtheGovernance Paradigm,FederationPress,Sydney. McCawley,Peter (1976),‘SurveyofRecent



McLeod,Ross(2000),‘Soeharto’sIndonesia: ABetter Class ofCorruption’,Agenda7 (2):99–112.

Manning,Nick(1999),‘UsinganOmbuds -mantoOverseePublicOfficials’,PREM



Pope,Jeremy(ed.)(1999),TheTISourceBook, TransparencyInternational,Berlin. Robison, Richard (1986)Indonesia:The Rise

ofCapital,AllenandUnwin,Sydney. Rose-Ackerman,Susan(1999),Corruptionand


-form,CambridgeUniversityPress,Cam -bridge.

Surachman, R.M.(2000),AddresstoWork -shopon Administrative Law, National


Theobald, Robin(1999),‘SoWhatReallyIs theProblemabout Corruption?’,Third WorldQuarterly20(3):491–502.


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