Sat, 12 Apr 2003

Curbing corruption in customs offices

It is staggering to hear that corruption is widespread within the Customs, Excise and Tax Directorate General, Ministry of Finance. The Jakarta Post revealed on March 31 the modus operandi of corrupt retired officials connected to the more than 1,500 "phantom" import companies, whose licenses were recently suspended by the government.

State revenue lost due to unpaid customs duties and import taxes amounts to Rp 8 trillion per year. Furthermore, it is even more alarming that another loss to the state in tax collection alone amounted to around Rp 160 trillion last year as a result of collusion between tax officials and taxpayers (the Post , April 4).

These matters reflect the need for stricter and harsher law enforcement and effective supervision. Regulations regarding the eradication of corruption and the duties of law enforcement officials are all in place. What is lacking is the moral responsibility of corrupt officials, and political will on behalf of the government. At the very least the National Ombudsman Commission (NOC) should be empowered and should urge each government institution to establish its own ombudsman in close cooperation and coordination with the NOC.

Looking at the Australian experience in waging war against corruption, within each government institution (even the police force) there is an oversight body monitoring the conduct of the institution, especially with regard to corruption by its officials. Therefore, there is no need for similarity in terminology for the body, be it "ombudsman commission", "oversight body" or whatever. The most importing thing is that these supervisory bodies work effectively.

M. RUSDI Jakarta