Bambang Nurbianto, Jakarta – House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung denied stealing any money from the 40 billion rupiah in non-budgetary funds of the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) while he was state secretary in 1999. Akbar said that all the money went to the poor under the state-sponsored social safety net program conducted by various ministries through their foundations.
"Oh, of course I did not divert a single cent of the money. The funds were all spent as part of the social safety net," said Akbar, who registered his personal estate as being worth 33.4 billion rupiah ($3 million) with the Public Servants' Wealth Audit Commission (KPKPN) in May.
Akbar said that a food shortage in Indonesia due to the monetary crisis compelled then president B.J. Habibie to assign him and other ministers in charge of people's welfare to manage the safety net program. "The Bulog chief was ordered to use the non-budgetary fund and channel it through foundations ... but, sorry, I forget the foundations' names," Akbar said. Akbar's alleged role in the Bulog scam became public on Tuesday when former Bulog chief Rahardi Ramelan admitted that he disbursed 54.6 billion rupiah of the Bulog non-budgetary fund in 1999. Forty billion rupiah went to Akbar and 10 billion rupiah to the then military chief Gen. Wiranto, who needed money to finance his controversial project of recruiting civilians to help provide security for the presidential election at the People's Consultative Assembly.
The remaining 4.6 billion rupiah went to PT Goro Batara Sakti (formerly owned by Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra) in connection with a land swap deal. Rahardi has been named a suspect following investigations into the numerous facets of the Bulog scandal. Tommy and his business partner Ricardo Gelael were sentenced to 18 months in jail for their part in the land swap deal. Ricardo has been serving his sentence, but Tommy become a fugitive soon after his request for a presidential pardon was rejected. In a controversial decision, the Supreme Court overturned Tommy's conviction last week.
Akbar, who is also chairman of the Golkar Party, Indonesia's second largest political party, said the use of the money was completely legal because it was approved in a cabinet meeting. "I'm ready to explain it any time the Attorney General's Office summonses me," he said.