Mon, 24 Apr 2000

Wardah Hafidz clarifies

A number of media reported that the World Food Program (WFP) accused the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC) of probable involvement in a demonstration in order not to pay the Rp 1.25 billion that the consortium owed to the WFP from sales of subsidized rice to the urban poor.

As the party accused, we at the UPC think the way in which the WFP reacted to the demonstration was immature, abhorrent and insensitive. Indeed, on April 17, 2000, when the demonstration took place, the UPC had not yet paid the amount mentioned by the WFP. The money was from the sale of rice during three weeks in March -- i.e. the second, third and fourth weeks -- to 160,000 family heads in the greater Jakarta area. Each family head received five kilograms. The UPC conducted the activity in cooperation with the WFP. The delay in payment was due to:

First, the quality of the rice in those three weeks was poor. The UPC voluntary workers had a hard time selling the rice quickly.

Second, the WFP's rice subsidy program finished at the end of March 2000. Since then, the UPC has been in the process of finalizing the entire bookkeeping, checking all the expenditures and in-payments, etc., hence the delay. The UPC would be stupid to damage the name of its institute by defaulting on the payment of an amount that is insignificant compared to the long-term losses it would suffer. The WFP has made a reckless defamatory statement.

In the dialog between WFP director Philip J. Clark and the demonstrators, he said the reason for the delay relayed by the UPC was trumped up because other NGOs conducting similar programs were not late in their payments even though they also experienced problems in selling poor-quality rice from the WFP.

We would like to clarify here that the system used by the UPC in this program is different from the one applied by other NGOs in similar programs. The WFP designs the program in a centralistic way, making NGOs mere implementers for the sale of rice against a fee of Rp 120 a kilogram (operational funds). It can be seen that if the UPC conducted this program in accordance with the WFP design, the UPC would be an institute that wallowed in money thanks to its participation in the program. It is because every week the UPC received an allotment for selling 750,000 kilograms (750 tons) of rice. The fee that could be obtained by the UPC would be 750,000 X Rp 120 = Rp 90 million a week or Rp 270 million a month.

At the start of the program in September 1999 the UPC changed the system by applying decentralization. It comprised the determination of the poor people entitled to receive subsidized rice, the tabulation of data, the implementation of rice sales, the determination of the use of the operational funds (Rp 120). The UPC discussed the implementation of the program with volunteers in all the villages in Greater Jakarta. These people numbered 986, both men and women. In the matter of operational funds, it was agreed to fix a fee of Rp 7 for the UPC which carried out coordination and monitoring, wrote the weekly and final reports, transferred the money to the WFP and other administrative tasks.

The UPC has not made itself a subdistributor of the WFP subsidized rice program, but instead took the opportunity to implement the program to facilitate the urban poor to organize themselves, to make them politically aware and to promote cohesion and solidarity among them.

Due to the difference in the systems, when there was a delay in payments from the villages, the UPC did not have reserve funds to temporarily cover the payment

This clarification is meant as public accountability of the UPC's activities. If community members including the media wish to know about the UPC's activities in this program and others, please call us at 01-8642915; 9205220 or e-mail


UPC Coordinator