Tue, 11 Mar 2003

'Education fund will be prone to embezzlement'

The city administration has allocated a huge sum of money to build or renovate classrooms, but data shows that many school buildings are in poor condition. The projects are prone to overvaluation and other fraudulent practices. A non-governmental organization (NGO) monitoring schools in the city suspects that the administration has marked up the budget for the fund by over 250 percent of the standard costs. The Jakarta Post spoke with several residents about the issue.

Adeste, 16, is a second-year student at a private senior high school in West Jakarta. She resides in Cileduk, Tangerang, with her family:

I'm concerned about the collapse of several state-run school buildings in some parts of the city recently.

I just wonder why the authorities have failed to manage the city budget properly for education. I think we have to blame the widespread corruption among high-ranking officials and contractors.

I guess the allotted city budget for education -- Rp 94 billion this year -- will likely be misappropriated by corrupt people involved in the project. Everybody knows of such conspiracies.

How can we boost our education, as we are ranked the lowest in the region for educational quality?

In addition, I'm afraid that the mentality of corruption will probably encourage students to be dishonest. It's not impossible that students might turn out this way, is it?

So, it would be better for the school management jointly with the city administration and contractors to deal with a transparent budget management system. The authorities could even publish the expenditures in the media so as to inform the public.

Lola, 30, is a teacher at a private elementary school in West Jakarta. She resides in Meruya, West Jakarta, with her husband and son:

The poor condition of school buildings in the city is ultimately due to the lack of proper funds and suitable construction materials.

However, it sounds strange that the city administration plans to allocate such huge budget to build and renovate classrooms.

I dare to say that the budget is prone to overvaluation and leaks. The funds allocated toward build a classroom could actually be used to build an entire school building.

It would be better for the city administration to offer the project through an open tender so that there will be some control from the public.

In addition, the city administration should be open to feedback from the public on its plans and budget.

At the end of the project, the city administration should expose the report transparently to the public. Alas, this has never happened before.

Otherwise, I'm afraid that the ongoing deceitful practices would only lower the quality of education in general. Substandard resources and facilities, including uncomfortable school buildings, won't improve education, I'm sure.

Didik (not his real name), 30, is a teacher at a private junior high school in Tangerang. He resides in Halim, East Jakarta, with his wife:

I think the city budget allotted this year for renovating several schools is too much. I'm afraid that it will be prone to embezzlement.

As far as I know, every single renovation proposal from schools will not automatically be approved by the authorities. I have made such a proposal before, and the requirements were very complicated. In fact, it was a useless exercise, as our school has never been approved for funds.

So, I believe that the close relationships and intense lobbying between headmasters and city administration officials are the keys to receiving the fund.

Worse, sometimes the fund is channeled to schools that do not need repairs, and schools in dire need of renovation are neglected.

I'm afraid that if the city administration requires such complicated procedures, it will be prone to more corruption. So, it would be better to simplify the procedures for distributing the funds. Otherwise, the quality of our education will never improve.

-- Leo Wahyudi S