Fri, 23 Feb 2001

RI's public service the worst: Official

By Tertiani Z.B. Simanjuntak

JAKARTA (JP): A top government official affirmed what many here have already long felt: Indonesia has the worst and probably the most inhumane public service when compared to neighboring countries.

The awful performance is in large part due to the carelessness of both the officials involved and their superiors in their obligation to serve the public.

JB Kristiadi, a deputy in the state ministry of administrative reform, had no qualms in describing the quality of service as "inhumane" as it created more insecurity and trouble than comfort and security to the community.

"For example here in Jakarta, you can find in the middle of the sidewalk stakes surrounding traffic signs, telephone and electricity installations forcing pedestrians to slither past these obstacles."

"To make it worse, the city administration fails to notice the many missing iron lids of sidewalk sewers... So most of the time people will fall down into the gaping hole," Kristiadi said on the sidelines of a two-day international workshop here.

"Public service is all about providing comfort to the people, and it has been left unheeded," Kristiadi told The Jakarta Post and weekly-magazine Forum.

Another rather sinister habit, according to Kristiadi, was the lack of maintenance whereby officials would neglect minor damage, let it worsen, and then embark on a big project to repair it.

"There should be a daily patrol to check public services and repair damage right away," he charged.

"Officials should have better things to do than to stay behind their desks."

Realizing and acknowledging the poor quality being offered may be the first step to improvement. The government has slowly begun steps to systemically correct the situation by seeking counsel from other countries through the assistance of such institutions as the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)'s partnership for governance reform.

The most immediate task ahead is how the government can set a minimal acceptable benchmark for public services throughout the country.

"There should be a standard for public services because they are not only being provided by the government, but also the private sector, the public and non-governmental organizations which in general also provide health and education services," Kristiadi said.

Despite the woeful conditions, Kristiadi remains hopeful, as there are examples in small towns in Central Java which continue to provide good services to their communities.

He did not reveal the towns in question.

Kristiadi nevertheless stressed that any efforts to improve should also be spurred by the public themselves.

He seemed to suggest a new brand of activism whereby the public would make it known if services to which they are entitled are provided or not.

"We still have lots of homework to do, including the encouragement of society to be aware of its rights to have good public services."

"Good services can attract investors or tourists and only a society which is aware of its needs for a comfortable and secure life can create such a conducive situation," Kristiadi argued.

"We are no longer sensitive to this condition because our demands for better services have been ignored for so long. Since we've now entered the reform area, we should no longer keep silent. Send your complaints to the city administration or the police," he suggested.