Fri, 28 Mar 2003

Papua, Aceh scrutinized over budget misuses

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government has set up a team to probe alleged budget misuse by two resource-rich, autonomous provinces, Papua and Aceh, a senior cabinet minister said.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Thursday that the team would be led by Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno in close coordination with the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP).

He, nevertheless, failed to disclose when the team would carry out its investigation.

According to Susilo, the government has received information about alleged misappropriation of budgets allocated to Papua and Aceh.

"The move is an attempt to prevent abuses which may affect local administrations when they carry out their daily duties.

"Nevertheless, we want the public to respect the principle of the presumption of innocence during the investigation. If we find out that the allegations are true, we will not hesitate to impose stern sanctions against them," Susilo said after holding a meeting on political and security issues on Thursday.

Also present in the meeting, held to evaluate the performance of the Aceh and Papua administrations, were Indonesian Military Commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar, and Hari Sabarno.

Under special autonomy arrangements, the two provinces were given the authority to draw up plans on how to spend their respective budgets while taking into account the needs of locals.

The two provinces have submitted their 2003 budgets with programs to the central government, but Susilo said "the government needs to clarify whether budgets have been channeled into appropriate programs."

During the 2002 fiscal year, Aceh received Rp 2.2 trillion from the general allocation fund, and another Rp 1.87 trillion from the profit sharing of oil and gas revenue.

For the 2003 fiscal year, the province will get a total of Rp 2.3 trillion from the general allocation fund, while the profit sharing will revolve around last year's figure.

Papua, on the other hand, received a total of Rp 1.3 trillion from the general allocation fund in 2002. That amount went up to Rp 1.5 trillion in 2003.

In addition, the province got Rp 663 billion from profit sharing from oil and gas revenue in 2002 and about the same amount in 2003.

Asked whether the central government was suspicious that Papua and Aceh administrations had disbursed some funds to separatist movements there, Susilo said: "I'm not going into details. But misuse could vary from their failure to account for their spending to possible disbursement to rebellion groups."