Thu, 06 Mar 2003

Government seeks int'l help in fighting corruption

Dadan Wijaksana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Long known as a safe haven for corruptors, Indonesia has asked the international community for support in its fight to stamp out corruption, at a three-day meeting it is hosting on anticorruption initiatives for the Asia-Pacific region.

"The meeting should be helpful for a country like Indonesia as we can learn from other countries how to eradicate corruption. We can share the knowledge and input on the matter at the meeting," Agus Muhammad, the finance ministry's inspector general, told reporters on Wednesday.

The meeting started on March 4 and runs through March 6. It is jointly organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Agus said that with the support of the international community, the government could obtain a great deal of information and thus come up with a better strategy and solution to combat corruption.

Even after the downfall of the allegedly corrupt regime of president Soeharto in 1998, efforts to eliminate corruption have been relatively fruitless.

Blamed for the prolonged economic crisis, corruption is rampant and appears to be spreading, with many suggesting that it is getting out of control. Findings of the misuse of state funds have increased, in terms of both volume and value.

Only recently, the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) -- which oversees the use of state funds at state institutions -- found irregularities amounting to a staggering Rp 456.3 trillion (about US$60 billion) in 2001 and 2002.

BPK said that the findings were the results of an inspection that covered the implementation of central and regional government budgets in 2001 and 2002.

The amount surpasses the Rp 430 trillion injected into banks by the government to avoid the collapse of the banking sector during the monetary crisis.

Despite the huge figure, many believe it is only the tip of the iceberg, indicating how imperative it is that the government comes up with a way to at least reduce corruption.

According to the World Bank, one of the country's main creditors, rampant corruption has not only caused losses to the state but has also discouraged investors from investing in Indonesia.

Elsewhere, Agus said that 16 countries were taking part in the meeting -- called the ADB-OECD Anti-Corruption Initiative for the Asia Pacific -- as well as the Advisory Council consisting of representatives of donor agencies, international non-governmental organizations and business organizations, including Transparency International, the World Bank and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

A media release said that the initiative was first endorsed by more than 35 member countries of the OECD and ADB in 1999 in Manila. Its main goal is to help countries create an effective anticorruption mechanism and lay the foundation for a sustained fight against corruption.

The initiative was drafted the Regional Anti-Corruption Action Plan, which was later endorsed by 17 countries, including Indonesia.