Massive graft at the tax department was â€śextraordinary crime beyond comprehension,â€ť President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Wednesday.
He said he had ordered Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo to pull out all the stops to end violations by officials of the tax directorate.
â€śIâ€™m still disappointed over the corruption in the Finance Ministry carried out by tax officers,â€ť Yudhoyono told 300 officials from the ministryâ€™s tax and customs and excise directorates.
â€śIt is extraordinary crime beyond comprehension.â€ť
The directorates collect the bulk of state revenue.
Yudhoyono ordered the minister and all his staff to ensure the violations stopped and continue the second phase of reform, specifically at the directorate general of taxation.
â€śWhen the minister asks for my support for the second stage of reformation, my answer is : My trust will soon recover as long as you show integrity, capacity and good performance,â€ť he said.
In the latest case to disgrace to the directorate, police earlier this month they had completed their dossier on former tax inspector Bahasyim Assifie and were preparing to hand it over to prosecutors.
Bashasyim was arrested over allegations that the Rp 64 billion ($7 million) he transferred to various family members came from bribes. He is accused of taking bribes from taxpayers in return for helping them minimize their tax bills in 2004 and 2005.
â€śYou can be a hero, a moral hero, a justice hero, an economic hero or a state budget hero, but you can also be a moral criminal, a justice criminal, an economic criminal and state budget criminal,â€ť Yudhoyono said, referring to various tax scandals that also include the ongoing saga involving former tax official Gayus Tambunan.
But the president said he appreciated the tax directorateâ€™s successful efforts in boosting state revenue, especially during the past five years.
In 2009, about 70 percent of the Rp 1,000 trillion state budget came from taxes and customs and excise.
Finance Minister Agus pledged to push ahead with reforms at the tax department, tighten internal procedures and improve governance, all the while ensuring that the bodyâ€™s key task of increasing state revenue was not ignored.
Agus said the corruption cases had been a big burden on the entire ministry. â€śWe want to apologize to the president as the head of the nation and to Indonesian people over this worrying case,â€ť he said.
â€śWe also promise to the president that we will fix it. It is our commitment that if such law violations happen in future, we will take tough action against the officers who are involved.â€ť
The second phase of reform at the directorate general of taxation was launched in mid-2009, under then directorate chief Darmin Nasution, who is now the acting governor at the central bank.
The second phase of reform included a $145 million project to revamp the computerized information system, part of a program to enhance the directorateâ€™s human resources in a bid to improve service to the public.
Darmin passed over the job to new tax chief Mochamad Tjiptardjo after he played a major role in advancing the first phase of the reform process.
The initial phase was launched in 2002, under which the number of registered taxpayers increased from about 3.2 million to 14.48 million in May this year.