Jakarta – The National Police are currently investigating 92 cases of alleged embezzlement surrounding COVID-19 social aid in 18 provinces across the country.
The number nearly tripled from a total of 37 cases compiled by the police last week, National Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Ahmad Ramadhan said.
The highest number of cases was found in North Sumatra with 38 cases, followed by West Java with 12 cases, West Nusa Tenggara with eight cases, Riau with seven cases and South Sulawesi with four cases.
"Meanwhile authorities in Banten, East Java, East Nusa Tenggara and Central Sulawesi are investigating three cases each. The remaining cases we found in Central Kalimantan, Riau Islands, West Sulawesi, West Sumatra, North Kalimantan, Lampung and West Papua," Ahmad said on Tuesday.
He said the alleged perpetrators used different methods to carry out the embezzlement.
"We've discovered a lot of cases all across the country so the modus operandi is different from one another, but the main motive is of course to earn profits," he said as quoted by kompas.com.
Ahmad, however, did not specify whether the police had named suspects in the embezzlement cases.
The government has allocated Rp 695.2 trillion (US$49.3 billion) from the state budget to fund its fight against the coronavirus, with Rp 203.90 trillion allocated for social aid through the Family Hope Program, staple food assistance, preemployment card and electricity discounts, among other things, for low-income people.
However, the social aid disbursement has been criticized with reports emerging about slow or mistargeted distribution, data disparities and a lack of coordination among the central government and regional administrations.
Data disparity on who should be eligible for the assistance has caused uneven distributions, with many poor families claiming they have not received any social aid while their well-off neighbors have.
A recent survey conducted by Jakarta-based pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia found that 60.3 percent of 1,200 polled respondents across the country said the government's COVID-19 aid packages had not been evenly distributed.
Meanwhile, 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 budget misappropriation.
The coalition – which includes 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.
The concern over transparency came after President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's statement that noted the relatively low disbursement of the COVID-19 response funds during a recent Cabinet meeting.
According to Finance Ministry data, the government had only spent 4.68 percent of the Rp 87.5 trillion (US$6.09 billion) allocated for the healthcare sector as of Monday, while spending on social assistance reached 34.06 percent of the Rp 203.9 trillion budget. (nal)