Thu, 30 Jan 2003

Postpone city budget approval, NGOs demand

Ahmad Junaidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) visited the City Council on Wednesday, demanding the postponement of approval of the 2003 city budget due to its lack of clarity over fund allocation and scope for corruption, as well as the fact that it does not favor the poor.

"The drawing up of the budget was manipulative and irrational. We demand that approval of the budget is postponed until it is rectified," spokesman for the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) Yunan said.

Besides Fitra, other NGOs making the same demand were Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC), the Women's Coalition and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH).

Yunan deplored the allocation of funds in the draft budget for Governor Sutiyoso amounting to Rp 9 billion, for Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo (up to Rp 6 billion) and for the city 85 councillors (Rp 122 billion).

He said Fitra also found that many city administration agencies and offices also allocated billions in funds for allowances for the governor, vice governor and councillors.

"The budget has been drawn up primarily to benefit government institutions and the council, instead of the public," Yunan said in a hearing with the council.

Sarpin of UPC condemned the allocation of Rp 136 billion for the City Public Order Agency and regretted the small allocation of funds for the poor, which amounted to only Rp 26 billion.

"If the council approves the budget, it means that the council agrees with eviction of the poor and other human rights violations," Sarpin said.

The Women's Coalition, through its spokeswoman Kencana, rejected the allocation of Rp 300 million for the Abang dan None (Mr and Miss) Jakarta and Paskibraka flag-raising team, which would be channeled through the city women's empowerment office.

"The programs have nothing to do with women's empowerment. The allocation of funds for the program will reduce the availability of funds for genuine women's empowerment," Kencana said.

The draft budget has allocated about Rp 2 billion for programs related to women's empowerment this year.

Sukirno of ICW cited possible corruption in the allocation of Rp 122 billion for the councillors as it had no legal basis.

He said allocation of the funds should be based on government regulation No. 110/2000 on council finances but the regulation was earlier revoked by the Supreme Court as it was not in accordance with Law No. 22/1999 on regional autonomy.

"Without a clear legal basis, the funds could easily be misused," Sukirno said.

According to Fitra, based on the regulations, the governor's funds should be cut to Rp 1.4 billion, the deputy governor's to Rp 799 million and the councillors' to Rp 59 billion.

LBH regretted that there had been no access for the public to monitor the drawing up of the draft budget since the beginning of the process.

"Closed-door meetings can be perceived as a conspiracy between councillors and city officials to avoid public scrutiny," LBH lawyer Uli Parulian said in the hearing.

Council deputy chairman M. Suwardi, however, rejected the NGO's demands on the postponement, saying approval had been scheduled for Friday.

"If the budget were already approved, it could be reviewed in June or July this year," Suwardi, of the National Mandate Party, told the activists.

The councillors had earlier rejected a number of projects proposed by the city administration, but this did not mean that the total expenditure was decreased because they shifted the funds to other projects.

The budget, which was earlier proposed to total Rp 11.05 trillion, would be increased to Rp 11.075 trillion. The councillors said that they should include the dividend from city- owned Bank DKI of Rp 25 billion this year.