Tue, 08 Jul 2003

W. Java councillors receive additional Rp 5b allowance

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

Members of the West Java legislative council admitted on Monday that they had each received an allowance of Rp 5 million per month from the provincial budget, on top of their Rp 12 million salaries.

In addition, they were also seeking the disbursement of a Rp 120 million severance pay, as their five-year terms as councillors would end next year.

Analysts and activists believe the allowance and severance pay are meant to be used by councillors to campaign for their respective political parties ahead of the 2004 general elections.

The council had repeatedly denied requesting these funds from the 2003-2004 budget.

But Rafani Ahyar, a member of the council's budget committee, eventually admitted on Monday that the additional funds had been earmarked from the budget.

"In (discussing) the 2003-2004 budget, we did ask for a commission membership allowance to improve our performance. This is normal, because as commission members in the council, we have to work to serve the public," he told The Jakarta Post.

Councillor Yudi Widiana Adia also confirmed the allocation of the so-called commission membership allowance. Yudi's faction, the Justice Party, had earlier opposed the allocation of the fund for its unclear purpose, but eventually accepted it.

He said each of the council's Commission E members received a total of Rp 30 million as their six-month allowance since February.

The fund did not include the councillors' monthly salary of Rp 12 million, Yudi added.

He argued that he and other legislators from the Justice Party had accepted the money, because their disbursement followed procedures.

Yudi's colleague, Reza Nasrullah, admitted that he had accepted the fund upon the approval of his Justice Party executive board of the West Java chapter.

The Rp 120 million severance pay has not yet been disbursed, as the factions in the council remained divided on the amount, and because the Justice Party still opposed the fund.

Gatot Tjahjono, who chairs the council's budget committee, said the allocations of the allowance and severance pay for the 100 councillors increased the 2003 provincial budget for the council by Rp 22 billion to Rp 80.2 billion, compared to last year.

All the special allowances for all the councillors amounted to Rp 48.8 billion per month, he added.

Yudi said his party would use the Rp 5 million monthly allowance for each of its councillors to finance a special team to monitor the use of education and health assistance funds for 700 villages in West Java.

The villages, in 25 towns and cities across the province, had each received Rp 165 million and motorcycles worth Rp 10 million each from the local administration.

Yudi said his party was concerned with the possible misuse of the funds by other parties to solicit public support for their political campaigns, as has happened in the past.

"We don't want to be misled by the past system any more, so we will use the money from the budget for monitoring purposes," he added.

Only recently, Misbach, a former senior official at the West Java administration, was tried at the Bandung District Court on charges of abusing Rp 3.4 billion from the budget to finance Golkar campaigns ahead of the 1997 elections.

However, the court acquitted him of the charges in March 2003, arguing that the funds had been audited by the Supreme Audit Agency, which did not report any irregularities.