Fri, 09 Aug 2002

Independent body for customs office annulled

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Ministry of Finance has rejected calls for the establishment of an independent supervisory committee to monitor the country's customs office, raising doubts about whether measures to reform the customs office can be successful.

The deputy chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), Kris Kanter, who has been involved in designing the customs reform program, said the secretary-general of the ministry had also rejected demands by the business community and the International Monetary Fund to set up an independent ethics committee, which would help curb corruption by customs personnel.

"We regret that the (finance) minister's subordinate has killed plans to set up the (independent) supervisory committee," Kris said.

He said that during initial discussions, the finance ministry had agreed to the establishment of the independent committee.

But the ministry later reversed its decision, ruling instead that the committee should comprise only senior officials from the finance ministry. The committee's role will only be limited to providing advice, and will not have a supervisory function.

The director general of customs and excise, Permana Agung, was apparently particularly disappointed by the decision not to establish an independent ethics committee.

The finance ministry has introduced a set of reform measures to help improve the customs service in the country.

But many doubt if the reforms will be able to curb corruption and smuggling, particularly because the measures do not prioritize eliminating the "mentality of corruption" in the customs office.

Experts have said that the establishment of an independent supervisory committee and ethics committee are crucial to increasing the quality of customs personnel.

Kris said that under the initial reform program, the 25-member supervisory committee was to be comprised mainly of people from outside the customs office, including members of non-governmental organizations, with only five committee members from the directorate general of customs.