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House approves new civil service bill

Jakarta Globe - December 21, 2013

Anastrasia Winanti & Carlos Paath – The House of Representatives on Friday passed the civil service bill, designed to ensure that public servants perform to high standards, or else face dismissal.

"The law on the administrative reform is a benchmark for the long history of administrative reform in this country," Azwar Abubakar, the administrative reform minister, said on Friday.

The new civil service law is set to replace the 1999 and 1974 laws on the civil service. Azwar said with the new law, public servants would be judged on merit and competence. He said it would minimize the potential of corrupt practices commonly occurring among public servants.

The law will set performance targets for state institutions, and public servants who fail to perform over a three-year period will face dismissal.

Andrinof Chaniago, a public policy expert from the University of Indonesia, said while the newly passed law had been drafted well to accommodate a clean bureaucracy, it was crucial for the government to ensure it was enforced properly.

"Substantially, the law was very well written – the content should be sufficient to reform a messy bureaucracy – but it is the implementation of the law that I am afraid of, too many experiences have taught us that weak implementation will ruin everything," he said.

Andrinof said the key to successful implementation was ensuring that the public knew their rights and obligations.

"Take some of the most important points and launch an aggressive campaign to inform the public, especially the parts that stipulate their rights as citizens. Only then can they be involved in monitoring the implementation of the law," he said.

Andrinof said the government should also explain the new law to public servants on a continuous basis to prevent misunderstandings. Most new laws fail to work properly, he said, due to poor public awareness and participation in upholding them.

The government has announced a plan to add 17,000 new state employees by the end of this year. Andrinof said rather than increasing the number of public servants, the government should trim the number as they have become a burden on the state budget.

The Indonesian civil service has long been regarded as corrupt and inefficient, sapping at least a third of the total state budget every year just to cover the salaries of government workers.

To reduce the bloat, the government instated a moratorium on the recruiting of new public servants in September 2011, but lifted it in December last year.

In October 2011, a month after the moratorium went into force, the country had 4.64 million civil servants, according to the Civil Service Administration Board.

At the end of 2012, after it was lifted, the number was down slightly to 4.46 million as a result of older bureaucrats retiring and no new ones being brought in.

Eko Prasojo, the deputy minister for state administrative reform, previously said it would take five years before the benefits of ongoing reforms in the bureaucracy would become apparent, given the mismanagement in the current system.

The government has drafted a master plan for bureaucracy reform composed of nine elements, including improving the structure of the bureaucracy; improving the quantity, distribution and quality of civil servants; and ensuring a transparent selection process and system of merit-based promotion.

Other programs include developing an online system for public administration and registration services, dubbed an e-government; simplifying the procedures for businesses applying for permits; requiring civil servants to submit wealth reports; improving the benefits for civil servants and ensuring efficiency in the use of facilities and infrastructure.

The government has committed to improving the quality of bureaucracy by 2025, part of its goal in maintaining economic growth at above 6 percent per year.

Eko said that should Indonesia fail to improve the quality of its bureaucracy, investment would dwindle and public trust would deteriorate.

A poor-quality bureaucracy is often identified as a hurdle to foreign investment in Indonesia. More than a decade of decentralization has shifted many responsibilities to underskilled local governments.

The government is also seeking to ensure civil servants are placed based on competency and to establish supervisory bodies for state institutions, as well as to restructure government ministries and institutions and improve budget efficiency, as well as integrity enforcement.

Eko said the problems in the bureaucracy were complex as they involved a huge number of people, and changing attitudes and mind-sets would not be easy.

He said the success of the bureaucratic reform effort could be gauged through public satisfaction and corruption perception indices. The government is aiming for a public satisfaction score of 85.5 by 2014, on a scale of 0 to 100. It was 76.6 last year.