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Government to overhaul preemployment card program amid irregularities

Jakarta Post - June 23, 2020

Dzulfiqar Fathur Rahman, Jakarta – The government is gearing up to overhaul its preemployment card program to address findings by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) earlier this month on suspected irregularities in the operation of the program.

The committee in charge of the program, whose members include officials of various ministries, has proposed a revision of Presidential Regulation No. 36/2020, the legal basis of the preemployment card program.

The program entails a mix of social assistance and up-skilling for laid-off workers affected by the pandemic.

The proposed changes range from the inclusion of small business owners in the program and a new legal basis for social aid given to program participants to regulations on criminal charges to be brought against applicants providing false personal information.

"We will include a criminal charge for identity and personal information fraud, as misdirected aid [provided for the program participants] can cause state losses," Rudy Salahudin, the chair of the committee, said in a virtual presser on Monday.

One of the KPK findings indicated that some of the registered participants for the program did not match the Manpower Ministry and Workers Social Security Agency (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan) data of the 1.7 million workers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

As of May 27, more than 1.79 million people have lost their jobs as many nonessential businesses shut down to comply with government restrictions, according to data from the Manpower Ministry.

With a budget of Rp 20 trillion (US$1.4 billion), the government introduced the preemployment card in mid-April to help 5.6 million people whose jobs or small businesses were hit by the pandemic. The government estimates that 3 to 5.2 million people may lose their jobs because of the severe economic impact of the pandemic.

Participants receive Rp 600,000 monthly for four months and Rp 150,000 after filling out the program's survey. Each recipient also receives Rp 1 million to pay for up-skilling courses, ranging from marketing to fishing.

However, the KPK has recently revealed irregularities in the program, from the participants' eligibility to the appointment of the eight digital platforms for the program that might not have gone through the proper procedures for goods and services procurement and more.

The antigraft body reported that 250 courses under the program might lead to a potential conflict of interest, because they were offered by firms linked to the partnering platforms.

The program has also been criticized by experts for allocating too much for the online course benefit and too little for the monthly cash assistance. So far, only around half of the program's roughly 680,900 participants have received cash aid, which they can get after completing at least one course on an online learning platform, Rudy added.

"We can reduce the online course benefit, so that the [cash assistance] can be higher," said Rudy.

Rudi added that, with the major overhaul of the program, the committee also temporarily halted the program's operation, which has run for three batches of participants.

Previously, experts have also highlighted the program's inability to help participants get a job upon completing a course, as companies were still reeling from the pandemic economic impact.

"I do not think that [people getting back their jobs] has taken place, because demand in the labor market is still low," Tadjudin Nur Effendi, an expert on labor issues from Gajdah Mada University in Yogyakarta, told The Jakarta Post on June 9.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/06/23/govt-to-overhaul-preemployment-card-program-amid-irregularities.html