Tue, 23 May 2000

Business back to normal at driver's license unit

JAKARTA (JP): What time is it? Ask anyone at the Jakarta Police driver's license processing unit on Jl. Daan Mogot, West Jakarta, and you might get confused.

There are nine clocks on the wall on the first floor of the new building, where hundreds of people impatiently wait for their turn to process their application every day, but the clocks show different times.

Take a close look and you'll find that seven of them are actually dead.

Unbelievable, isn't it? But if you care to observe more closely, you'll find that in fact, a lot of things do not work smoothly here.

First, as soon as you get out of your car, a friendly man will give you a big smile and offer to help you.

"Making a new driver's license is very easy. You don't have to take any test. What you need to do is to have your picture and finger prints taken. It won't last long, only four hours. For this, only Rp 190,000," you would be told.

If you don't look interested, he will still try to persuade you: "You can make the payment after you get your license. I guarantee."

The official price for a private car driver's license is only Rp 52,500, excluding the Rp 10,000 insurance fee and Rp 5,000 health examination fee.

Just like many other police units, this driver's license processing unit is notorious for its corruption. But starting May 1, the police imposed a strict control over the process. Everything was done in accordance with the existing procedures. As a result, many people who did not prepare themselves well failed the test. Police record that of the 1,000 daily applicants, between 200 to 400 applicants fail.

However, many parties doubt the consistence of this strict control while the scalpers and middlemen believe that things would be back to "normal" after May 20.

On Saturday, a driving school instructor in Tangerang gave good news to the students. He said that the school could resume helping them with the driver's license application. Those living in Jakarta are charged Rp 210,000 each, while the Tangerang residents have to pay Rp 230,000 each. This is Rp 20,000 more than the previous tariff.

Two weeks ago, one of the students, Lina, went to the police license processing unit to process her application. She failed the practical test and returned to the unit Saturday for her second test.

"Why should you take the trouble to take the test?" a policeman told her. "It will take hours. Just let me help you and you can go straight to have your photo taken."

He asked for Rp 40,000.

Bewildered, she ignored the offer and went directly to the counter, only to hear the complaints of several applicants who had been waiting for hours for their turn to take a practical test.

Several motorcycles were seen parked in the area where the test should take place. But no test was in progress.

Two weeks ago, for the sake of efficiency, there were four applicants in one car. But now, one car for one applicant and during the test, you can negotiate how the test should be performed, whether you have to drive through a mounting spot or not and how you like the result.

"An applicant told me she was asked to pay Rp 20,000, while another one said he paid Rp 10,000," Lina said.

Lina said she was frustrated and gave up. She finally agreed with the policeman, who asked for Rp 40,000 for a speedy process.

"In less than two hours, I got my driver's license. But I feel ashamed of myself," Lina said.

In late March, a traffic policeman who refused to be named daringly distributed to reporters copies of a report which revealed that several top Jakarta Police officers, including chief Maj. Gen. Nurfaizi, collect a portion of the illegal fees exacted for obtaining or extending driver's licenses for both private and public transportation vehicles.

National Police chief Lt. Gen. Rusdihardjo once vowed to conduct a thorough probe into the report.

Unfortunately, there has been no announcement from his office about the progress of the investigation that he had pledged.

Late last week, the vast Daan Mogot driver's license processing unit office compound was already packed with brokers, including those attired in police uniform and people who professed to be reporters, offering services to bypass time- consuming tests. (sim/bsr)