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Village head allegedly sets fire to own office to avoid audit

Jakarta Post - February 19, 2020

Jakarta – The village head of Neglasari in Jatiwaras district of Tasikmalaya, West Java, has been arrested after allegedly setting fire to the Neglasari village administration building in an attempt to avoid a financial audit.

Tasikmalaya Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Doni Eka Putra said Wowon Gunawan had been arrested along with his brother, Budiman, based on the results of tests conducted by the National Police's forensics laboratory.

"The two suspects are now in custody and have been proven to have set fire [to the building] using some kind of fuel. They have been charged under Article 187 of the Criminal Code [on arson], which carries a maximum punishment of 12 years of imprisonment," Doni said on Tuesday as quoted by kompas.com.

Doni alleged that Wowon and Budiman committed the crime to destroy evidence of potential financial malfeasance in the office.

"The village head's elder brother, Budiman, was the one who came up with the idea, because his younger brother [Wowon] always complained that he was scared to be examined by the audit team regarding how he used village funds during his term," Doni said.

Separately, Sani Junan Hudaya, head of the Neglasari Society Forum, said villagers had staged several rallies demanding budget transparency from Wowon's administration between 2015 and 2019.

"Many development projects valued at as much as Rp 2.1 billion [US$153,301] were not reported properly," Sani claimed.

Many of the documents that may have proven the villagers' suspicions were reportedly destroyed in the fire, which occurred in the early hours of Saturday.

In recent years, village heads have assumed responsibility over increasingly large sums of money transferred to villages through President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's village funds program.

Around Rp 257 trillion (US$18.4 billion) was distributed to villages during Jokowi's first term, and the amount is set to increase to Rp 400 trillion for the 2019-2024 period.

Mishandling of village funds has become a matter of concern, with Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) data showing that 141 village heads have been involved in graft cases related to village funds since 2015. (gis)

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/19/village-head-allegedly-sets-fire-to-own-office-to-avoid-audit.html