Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie, Jakarta – A coalition of watchdog groups has urged the government to be more transparent in using the trillions of rupiah allotted for the virus response amid a lack of access to information on how the funds are spent, as activists raised concerns over the potential for corruption.
The coalition, spearheaded by Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Transparency International Indonesia (TII), the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency National Secretariat (Seknas Fitra) and the Indonesia Budget Center (IBC) said the government had not been accountable and open in utilizing the COVID-19 response funds.
"In supervising the funds, the various obstacles we face are a lack of access to information related to the amount of budgetary funds that have been received by government institutions, the value of expenditure that has been issued, types of expenditure, [and] the budget value for each of those expenditures," the coalition wrote in a statement published Monday.
Additionally, the groups said that detailed information regarding the distribution of goods and their location, as well as beneficiaries of social aid, health worker incentives and the national economic recovery programs, was also lacking.
The coalition also said the supervision function performed by the press also faced a roadblock as the government had closed its information access.
"We urge the Indonesian President to order all government officials, both in central and regional administrations, to provide various information without having to be asked specifically by the public or the press," the groups said, adding that the information must be easily accessible to all elements in accordance with the 2008 Information Disclosure Law.
The virus response funds include the Rp 695.2 trillion (US$46.98 billion) allocated by the central government, in addition to the Rp 71.57 trillion allocated by regional administrations on average.
The coalition argued that as government institutions had been handling the COVID-19 pandemic for five months now, they should have been able to adapt to the new situation and not constantly use crisis and emergency as reasons to cover themselves.
The groups acknowledged that the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic must be prioritized and handled swiftly.
"But if the process is carried out without accountability, it would instead trigger corruption and threaten the success of the pandemic response," the coalition said in the statement.
The concern over transparency also came amid President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo noting the relatively low absorption of the COVID-19 response funds during the previous Cabinet meeting.
Out of the Rp 87.55 trillion allocated for healthcare spending, the government had only used Rp 4.48 trillion, a measly 5.12 percent despite an increase from the reported 1.53 percent absorption rate reported in late June.
Moreover, all provinces in the country had used less than 50 percent of their respective allocated response fund as of July 15, the highest being Jakarta with 45 percent and the lowest being Southeast Sulawesi and South Sumatra with 16 percent.
Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chief Comr. Gen. Firli Bahuri has said that those who embezzle COVID-19 funds would face the death penalty as stipulated in the 2001 Corruption Law.