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Indonesia's graft fight stalls as CPI shows no improvement

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2024

Nur Janti, Jakarta – Indonesia's efforts to eradicate corruption seem to have been hampered by various causes, from attacks against law enforcers to vote-buying, as suggested by the country's unimproved score in the global graft index.

The 2023 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), published by Berlin-based Transparency International on Tuesday, showed that Indonesia scored 34, putting it in 115th position out of 180 countries surveyed in the study.

The latest score is below the global average, which is stuck at 43, with the global graft watchdog arguing that most countries "have made no progress or declined in the last decade," on its website.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia scored lower than regional neighbors Singapore, with a score of 83, Malaysia (50), Vietnam (41) and Thailand (35), while having the same score and rank as the Philippines.

The CPI was first introduced in 1995 as a composite index aggregating data from various sources to offer a measure of corruption levels by country. An index score of 0 indicates that a country is extremely corrupt, while 100 means it is free of corruption.

In its report, Transparency averaged CPI scores of different countries based on types of government, following a classification made by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2022. It found that countries with a strong democracy scored 73 on average, followed by 48 for flawed democracies and 32 for non-democratic regimes.

Indonesia's score of 34 is the same as the one it obtained in 2022, when the country saw a four-point decrease from 38 in 2021, its biggest decline in the annual index in 25 years.

"The stagnation in Indonesia's score means that for two consecutive years, there have been no significant changes in efforts to eradicate corruption," Transparency International Indonesia deputy secretary-general Wawan Suyatmiko said during the index launching event in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Weakened legal systems

Transparency International highlighted the stalled global average was due to weakening justice systems in many countries that reduce public officials' accountability, allowing corruption to thrive.

Indonesia seems to have followed the trend, Wawan said, as the country's antigraft campaign was halted due to the lack of support from policymakers.

He referred to the revision of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law in 2019, which turned the antigraft body into a government body. Observers decried the move, arguing that it diminished its independence in preventing corruption and prosecuting graft suspects.

The opposition against the law amendment turned into waves of nationwide protests mainly led by university students. But the government and the House of Representatives marched on and approved the revision.

Laode Muhammad Syarif, executive director of the Partnership for Governance Reform (Kemitraan), concurred with Transparency's argument that the deterioration of the country's antigraft system had led to the drops in its corruption index score, referring to Indonesia's three-point drop from 40 in 2019 to 37 the following year.

He said policymakers should instead revise the 2001 Corruption Law to include provisions mandated by the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), such as private sector corruption, influence trading, bribery from foreign government officials and illicit enrichment. Indonesia ratified the convention in 2006.

"When we were still serving in the KPK, we suggested to the House and government to update the Corruption Law [...] because it was still behind compared with the ratified UNCAC. But they revised the KPK Law instead," said Laode, who served as one of the antigraft body's deputy chairman between 2015 and 2019.

"The next president should become the frontline leader in the country's corruption eradication fight," he continued.

Vote-buying blamed

Indonesia's stagnant CPI score and low rank are because of the high political costs of the electoral process and the low integrity of law enforcers, said Jaleswari Pramowardhani, an aide to the presidential chief-of-staff.

She blamed corrupt practices in public services and permit issuance and the public's permissive attitude against vote-buying during elections as factors that have perpetuated corruption in Indonesia.

Jaleswari, who is an advisor for the National Strategy for Corruption Prevention (Stranas-PK), said the government would continue to improve the graft eradication campaign through several strategies, such as imposing legal and administrative punishments for officials found to have committed corrupt practices, education for the public on the harm of vote-buying and improving funding and supervision of political parties.

"The latest score should be a trigger for everyone in the government to evaluate, repair and improve [the state official's] integrity and credibility in the remaining term of the Jokowi-Ma'ruf's administration," she said, referring to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Vice President Ma'ruf Amin.

KPK spokesperson Ali Fikri called the score a warning that the country's fight against corruption should not be carried out "mediocrely", suggesting that policymakers must strengthen the Corruption Law.

Measures, he added, could start with the passing of the asset forfeiture bill, which has been deliberated for more than two decades at the House.

Source: https://asianews.network/indonesias-graft-fight-stalls-as-cpi-shows-no-improvement