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No accountability for Covid-19 funding

Tempo - July 2, 2021

Jakarta – The Supreme Audit Agency uncovered a number of improprieties in the distribution of Covid-19 assistance. the principle of caution has not been applied.

An audit by the Supreme Audit agency (BPK) has underlined the chaotic management in the paying out of Covid-19 assistance by the government in 2020. Although the result of the audit was declared as reasonable without exception, there is evidence of considerable shortcomings in the way much of this aid was provided. Therefore, the corruption of social assistance fund that led to the arrest of Julian Peter Batubara, Social Affairs Minister from 2019-2020, who is now being on trial, might be just the tip of an iceberg.

The problems mentioned in the audit report would not have happened if the government had from the outset prioritized the principle of caution. No matter how serious the pandemic, the government must not ignore accountability in the distribution of social assistance. But the fact is that the government has yet to draw up a reporting mechanism for a state funds used to deal with the impact of the pandemic.

In the BPK's examination of the recently released 2020 central government financial report, a large number of incentives and tax facilities in the national economic recovery program are said to have reached the wrong targets. There were also abuses in the spending on the response to Covid-19 totaling Rp9 trillion in 10 ministries and institutions. Ironically, more than half of the misuses of funds for people suffering as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic happened at the social affairs ministry.

The BPK audit found indications of inflation of prices in the procurement of goods and services for the basic necessities presidential assistance program. Moreover, the audit into the first stage of use of Covid-19 funding also discovered that hundreds of millions of rupiah in the Hope Family social assistance program did not reach the right targets.

There were also indications that recipients of assistance for microenterprises impacted by the pandemic did not meet the criteria. Wage subsidies from the ministry of education and culture also reached the wrong targets, and there were similar findings from other ministries. These abuses could well indicate embezzlement.

The administration of Joko Widodo should learn from previous programs. In the distribution of village funding programs, lack of observance of accountability principles provided an opportunity for corrupt practices. Instead of evening out development, the allocation of village funds became a cash cow for regents and village heads. They were able to enjoy the proceeds because of the weak oversight and lack of accountability. This is also proof that bureaucracy in Indonesia still one of the main sources of corruption.

The latest findings by the BPK could be a starting point for an investigation of corruption. The Corruption Eradication Commission should not stop at the social assistance case involving Juliari Batubara. Of course, we know that Law No. 2/2020 states that officials with jobs related to the handling of the pandemic cannot face any legal charges. But this does not mean that those who steal money can escape justice.

Read the Complete Story in Tempo English Magazine: https://magz.tempo.co/read/38058/no-accountability-for-covid-19-funding

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1478821/no-accountability-for-covid-19-fundin