Fri, 14 Feb 2003

Attorney General's Office criticized over Pertamina corruption probe

A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Legislators lambasted the Attorney General's Office for being slow in the investigation of alleged corruption cases in the country's oil and gas projects.

Emir Moeis, chairman of the House of Representatives special committee for the investigation of alleged corruption at the state-owned oil and gas firm Pertamina, said that the two institutions had not been serious in their investigative work.

"The investigation began in 1999, but all the cases remain unresolved," Emir told reporters on Thursday on the sidelines of a hearing with Pertamina.

The House set up the committee last year to conduct its own investigation into the corruption cases.

During the more than 30-year rule of former president Soeharto, many state-owned companies like Pertamina had been treated as cash cows through various corrupt practices such as marking up the cost of the projects to benefit certain powerful people.

Emir said that Pertamina handed over some 159 corruption cases in 1999 to the Attorney General's Office for further investigation, but a year later the office declared that only 22 cases could be investigated. It said that there was not enough evidence in the remaining cases.

However, the Attorney General's Office has investigated only three cases so far including the Exor-1 Balongan oil refinery project, the Trans Java Pipelines, and the Technical Assistance Contract oil and gas exploration in East Kalimantan.

Former minister of mines and energy Ginandjar Kartasasmita had allegedly been involved in the last case.

The Attorney General's Office argued that it could not complete the investigation on the Exor-I project because the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP) had not concluded its financial investigation.

But Emir said that BPKP was now in doubt whether the state had really suffered financial losses in the project.

The investigation into the Trans Java Pipelines project became controversial because the Attorney General's Office had planned to drop the investigation, citing lack of evidence, Emir said.

Legislators also criticized the office for its lack of cooperation with the House investigating committee.

"While we were trying to take a closer look at the Ginandjar case, the Attorney General's Office officials claimed that some of the files had been damaged by termites," said legislator Sudarto.

"What kind of termites could damage a computer disc?," he added.

Meanwhile, another legislator Didi Supriyanto said that the committee would convey its findings to the House plenary meeting on Feb. 24 after it carried out a one-year investigation.

"We demand that the Attorney General's Office takes the cases more seriously. We also recommend that the House establish a team of experts to push the investigation of the three cases," he said.