Herman, Jakarta – Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has demanded accountability regarding the expensive program aimed at constructing internet infrastructure in remote regions, citing the significant government funds allocated for the project.
Initiated by the Communication and Informatics Ministry, the project aimed at erecting tens of thousands of base transceiver stations (BTS) for a 4G internet network has been ensnared in a corruption scandal involving high-ranking ministry officials and business figures.
Former Communication Minister Johnny Gerard Plate was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in accepting bribes from companies securing contracts for the project.
Speaking at the Indonesia Digital Summit 2023 seminar in Jakarta on Tuesday, also attended by Johnny's successor, Budi Arie Setiadi, Sri Mulyani raised inquiries about the progress of the project.
"I have inquired with Mr. Budi Arie regarding the earlier commitment to install BTS in numerous regions, connecting 75,000 villages, 10,000 healthcare centers, and 240,000 elementary and Islamic schools digitally. I am urging the current minister for tangible results," Sri Mulyani said.
The finance minister added that the project received government approval to bridge the digital technology gap between highly populated areas and the remote regions of Indonesia.
"Indonesia is not just about Jakarta or Java. We must invest more in infrastructure to bridge the digital divide," she said.
Sri Mulyani revealed that amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Communication and Informatics Ministry was the sole entity to maintain its full budget while other ministries and state agencies faced budget cuts.
"Instead, the ministry received additional funds for satellite projects, fiber optic networks, BTS construction, and various other digital infrastructure endeavors," she added.
When queried about the scandal, Sri Mulyani mentioned Budi Arie's explanation that it occurred before his tenure, prompting a lighthearted response from the audience.
Court documents reveal that the corruption scandal surrounding the 4G internet infrastructure project incurred losses amounting to Rp 8 trillion ($533 million) for the state.
At least eight prominent individuals have been implicated in the case. Most recently, prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office detained one of the nine members of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) for allegedly accepting $2 million in bribes.
State auditor Achsanul Qosasi stands accused of accepting payments in exchange for favorable audit outcomes regarding the fraudulent project.