PPD drivers will 'receive their insurance fund'
JAKARTA (JP): The central government, in an economic affairs coordination meeting, decided to disburse the insurance fund belonging to the state-run City Bus Company (PPD) employees, who are striking for the fourth consecutive day over the disputed money.
Coordinating Minister for the Economy Rizal Ramli told reporters after chairing the ministerial-level meeting that the government would also shortly restructure the firm and conduct a thorough auditing into the company's performance. The Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) has been asked to seriously look into the company, especially the usage of government-subsidized funds.
Ramli ensured the 5,500 PPD employees, mostly drivers who had been on strike since Friday, that their insurance fund would be distributed to them while the government awaits the BPK report, Antara said.
The minister, however, did not set any time for the disbursement of the fund, which had triggered the PPD drivers and conductors to go on a massive strike.
Until late Monday, none of the PPD executives and staff could be reached to comment on the government's decision, and whether or not the bus drivers would continue to stop operating the 600 PPD buses.
The drivers said earlier that the money, worth Rp 13 billion allocated for the employees' insurance and pension fund, had become a prolonged problem for the PPD employees which sparked their anger to hold the strike.
PPD President Anton Sudarto resigned last Thursday following his failure to meet his promise by the Sept. 29 deadline to pay the fund to his employees.
The Ministry of Finance intentionally delayed the fund because the firm's board of management used some Rp 6 billion of the previous fund package to finance PPD's debts and a company streamlining program.
Director General for Budget at the Ministry of Finance Anshari Ritonga said on Monday that his office would distribute the fund as soon as PPD management could make significant corrections in their previous balance sheet reports in the use of the government-subsidized money.
"We never tried to delay the fund, but they have to correct their balance sheet reports before we disburse the money," Anshari told reporters after a meeting with former PPD president Anton Sudarto.
In response, Anton promised to meet the requirements and hoped that he could deliver it first thing on Tuesday to the ministry.
The strike of the PPD bus drivers caused no serious problems to the city's thousands of commuters thanks to the rapid response from the authorities by deploying some 450 buses from three bus companies.
Some people said that the absence of the PPD buses, which serve 48 routes in the capital, forced them to wait longer at the bus stops since the other buses with the same routes were always packed with passengers due to the limited buses available.
"I have to wait longer to reach my office on Jl. Sudirman as all buses were always full. It's a little bit annoying for me," said Nida Rahman, of Bekasi.
Another commuter, Irwan of Tangerang, said he had to take ojek (motorcycle taxi) to reach his office due to the fully-packed buses.
Confused with the absence of PPD buses route number P 45 plying Blok M - Tangerang and the overloaded air-conditioned Mayasari Bhakti buses, a housewife finally took a taxi to reach her home in Tangerang.
"I spent more than an hour in Slipi with my baby ... but there were no P 45 buses and all of the air-conditioned buses ran at full speed with passengers seen standing inside," the woman said.
A PPD spokesman told a radio station in a live interview on Monday that the company had so far suffered a total financial loss of around Rp 800 million due to the four-day strike.
"We usually earn some Rp 200 million per day, meaning that we have now already lost around Rp 800 million," he said.
Separately, head of the City Land Transportation Agency (DLLAJ) Buyung Atang said the city administration spent not a single penny in providing the extra 450 buses to temporarily replace the PPD buses.
"We do not have to pay for it at all, but some of the bus companies, such as Mayasari Bhakti and Steady Safe, have started complaining to us saying that they have to run their buses 24 hours a day which would eventually cost them," he said.
According to Buyung, the city administration could do nothing to solve the PPD problem as it is a state-owned company.
City councilor Sayogo Hendrosubroto echoed Buyung, adding that the idea of taking over the company should be studied thoroughly as PPD still has a huge debt and poor management.
"We have to put the bus company in the agenda ahead of the regional autonomy, but we have to study the possibility carefully as we all know the company has a lot of debt and we have to consider whether we can guarantee better management if we take over the company," Sayogo said.
By February this year, the company reportedly had incurred some Rp 49.6 billion debt in covering its operational costs. PPD was actually managed by the Jakarta administration for almost 20 years until Dec. 31, 1980. (dja/bsr)