Fri, 23 May 2003

Inquiry into Lampung council corruption case proceeds

Oyos Saroso, The Jakarta Post, Bandar Lampung, Lampung

Prosecutors will investigate irregularities amounting to Rp 23.5 billion (about US$ 2.7 million) at the Lampung provincial council, overcoming initial hesitation to probe the matter after the Supreme Court repealed a regulation governing fund use by councils.

Councillors allegedly violated government regulation No. 110/2000 on the use of funds for regional councils.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court repealed the regulation, causing prosecutors to reconsider investigating the case.

But Supreme Court Chief Justice Bagir Manan cleared up the matter.

"The legal process against members of the Lampung council suspected of misusing Rp 23.5 billion in state funds can still be carried out," he said during a visit to Lampung on Thursday.

He said the Supreme Court may repeal a regulation, but the government still had the right to make use of it.

"It means the government regulation remains effective as long as the home minister continues to make use of it," he explained.

The Supreme Court repealed the regulation after regencies said its content contradicted their bylaws on the use of council budgets. However, the decision has yet to be sanctioned by the government.

The deputy chief of the Lampung Prosecutor's Office, Darmono, said his office had questioned the council's secretary Masyono Nawai as the first witness and further investigation would follow. "We have enough evidence, we just need to gather more information and analyze it," Darmono said.

The alleged graft was first reported by the Lampung Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP) last month. BPKP recorded irregularities in the use of the council's budget amounting to Rp 9.5 billion in 2001 and another Rp 14 billion in 2002.

It said use of the council's budget was not in line with government regulation No. 110.

But Lampung Council Speaker Abbas Hadisunyoto denied that the money had been misused. When drafting the council's budget, he said, they also referred to bylaw No. 4/1999, which covers a number of budget items not regulated under government regulation No. 110.

He said the council could not be charged with embezzlement for using the bylaw for budget items outside those listed under regulation No. 110.