Tue, 07 Nov 2000

City official to be questioned over illegal billboard

JAKARTA (JP): City Planning Agency chief Ahmadin Ahmad will be questioned soon by the City Officials Honorary Council for his alleged role in granting permission to erect a giant billboard in a restricted zone, an official said on Monday.

City Inspector Hendarmin Ono Saleh said Ahmadin, who is presently on holiday with his family in the United States, would be questioned shortly after he arrived home from his vacation.

Hendarmin said Ahmadin would have known that erecting billboards in restricted areas was against the law and he was prohibited from accepting money for the billboard permits he issues.

"There is no such thing. Those who want permits only need to pay the tax. It's possible to bring the city planning agency chief before the council on this," he said.

Hendarmin was referring to the large billboard advertising a well-known toothpaste brand on Jl. Sisingamangaraja in South Jakarta, which has been widely reported in local newspapers over the past few days. Gubernatorial Decree No. 702/1992 clearly stipulates that the street is one of six in the capital to be free of billboards.

The billboard, measuring 10 meters by 20 meters, was erected last month. The company paid its 2000/2001 fee, amounting to Rp 109,500,000 (US$11,526), to the City Revenue Agency.

An executive at the advertising company PT Cinggar Indo Galba said the firm decided to erect the billboard in the restricted zone since it had given extra money to the Jakarta Soccer Association (Persija).

The company president, Kemal, said recently that he received a recommendation to place the billboard at its present location from Ahmadin, who is also a Persija official, after paying the money to the association.

Kemal, however, did not disclose the precise amount given or "how or to who" at Persija received the money.

It is commonly known that the City Planning Agency has been "used" to provide funds for Persija as many city officials are also executives of the soccer association.

Meanwhile, City Revenue Agency chief Deden Supriyadi said he had ordered his staff to take down the disputed billboard on Monday afternoon at the latest.

"I've signed the order to take down the billboard because the governor has told us to take it down and return the tax money," Deden said.

Separately, vice chairman of the Indonesian Outdoor Advertisement Companies Association (AMLI) Gunadi Soekemi told a news conference that the billboard on Jl. Sisingamangaraja was not the only one illegally erected in the capital.

Gatot said others included a giant billboard of a famous cigarette brand in front of the Hilton International Hotel on Jl. Gatot Subroto, which is on government property and is forbidden by law.

AMLI chairman Gatot Teguh Ariffianto said the city's inconsistency in issuing permits to advertising companies had led to disorderliness.

"Such inconsistency has created unhealthy competition (among advertising companies)," Gatot said.

He said the practice led to high costs and an increasing number of brokers, instead of real advertising agencies.

He said about 10 percent of the hundreds of billboard advertising companies in the capital were acting only as agents for other companies to get permits from the city since they knew the officials.

Gunadi said the agents' practice had smeared the image of billboard advertising companies.

"If this practice continues, we'll lose our pride in the profession," Gunadi said.

Gatot, however, questioned the basis which was used by the city to decide which streets would be free of billboards.

"The government should involve us (advertising companies) the next time they make regulations on this matter," Gatot said.(dja/jaw)