Heru Andriyanto & Lenny Tristia Tambun, Jakarta – The Jakarta provincial government has come under fire for ridiculous budget proposals, including Rp 82 billion ($5.8 million) for a specific brand of glue and Rp 5 billion for public influencers.
William Aditya Sarana, a representative of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), discovered the unusual items, requested by the provincial departments of education and tourism, after he somehow found a way to access the city's electronic budget system. His findings, posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday, have since become the subject of public mockery.
"Unusual budget items found: Aibon glue purchase worth more than Rp 82 billion by the education department," tweeted William, who is a member of the Jakarta Legislative Council. "The education department will provide each student with two cans of Aibon glue per month. For what?"
He attached a screenshot of the city's budget website showing a planned purchase of Aibon glue for 37,000 people and a link to the specific page.
His tweets quickly went viral, prompting the education department to respond by saying that the inclusion of the glue may have been in error.
"It looks like a typo; we are checking all the [budget] components," Susi Nurhati, secretary of the provincial education department, said on Tuesday night. However, the screenshot of the budget page clearly mentions "lem" (glue) and Aibon, a popular brand in Indonesia.
Susi said her office proposed a budget for paper and ink, but not glue. She added that an investigation was underway to find the person who made the controversial request. Her office blocked access to the 2020 Jakarta budget website shortly afterwards.
Syaefuloh Hidayat, head of the provincial education department, meanwhile tried desperately to clarify the inclusion of Aibon glue in the budget, saying it happened after 209 of the 2,100 schools in Jakarta submitted their needs directly to the electronic system.
Their proposals were split into two major groups: laboratory equipment, and stationary, which together totaled Rp 182 billion. The glue was included in the Rp 134 billion stationary category, he explained on Wednesday.
Syaefuloh admitted that the inclusion of the glue had not been in error, but insisted that the proposal was only temporary and subject to revision by his office. "Actually, the real stationary needs for those schools are just Rp 22.7 billion," he said.
He claimed that he had asked his subordinates whether there was really a need for the glue and the answer was "no."
Aibon glue is often abused by drug addicts who inhale the fumes to produce intoxication or a psychoactive effect at a relatively low cost.
Edy Junaedi, head of the Jakarta provincial tourism and cultural department, meanwhile did not deny the budget for influencers, but said the real spending would not be merely on them.
"Rp 5 billion has been set inside and published for influencers. It contains activities with the ultimate goal of promoting tourism activities in the media. It includes media spending, supporting events and other things," Edy said.
Blaming the system
While the officials' explanations did not explain much – such as why schoolchildren would need so much glue – nor did remarks by Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.
Anies said such a strange budget item could make it into the list, because the electronic budget system implemented by his predecessor, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, was not that smart after all.
He said the digital system could not detect unusual items and still needed human oversight.
"Yes we have a digital system, but it is not a smart system. It still relies on human intervention to review," Anies told reporters at City Hall on Wednesday. "We are going to change it. Let's do it in a smart way," he added, without elaborating.
He continued in his criticism of the system, saying it created a loophole that allowed for the inclusion of unusual items, and that this was a perennial problem.
"We notice the presence of strange figures [in the draft budget] every year. If the system was smart enough, it should have verified them by itself," he said.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo introduced the electronic budget system during his tenure as Jakarta governor, but it was implemented by Ahok, who succeeded him in late 2014, after he became president.
In its early implementation, the electronic budget system caused a heated feud between Ahok and members of the provincial legislature after the discovery of a Rp 120 billion budget entry for the acquisition of uninterruptible power supply devices for schools.
Lower-ranking city officials secretly added the budget item at a later stage, reportedly at the request of some councilors, without Ahok's knowledge. However, it was detected due to the transparent nature of the electronic system.