The Jakarta Post-Feb 26

The latest corruption perception index (CPI), released by Transparency International last week, sends the crystal clear message that our fight against graft has hardly made progress. Indonesia’s score of 37 out of a possible 100 means the country’s anticorruption drive remained stuck in the past year, despite persistent law enforcement against graft.

Indeed, the Berlin-based organization admitted the sluggish pace in combatting corruption was a global trend: More than two-thirds of 180 countries surveyed score below the mediocre level of 50, with an average score of 43. Among Southeast Asian countries only Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia exceed the median.

But this is no excuse not to perform. As Indonesia considers corruption an extraordinary crime, next to terrorism and drug trafficking, we should devote all energy at our disposal to win the war on graft.

Indonesia cannot be said to have not done enough to instill an anticorruption culture. In law enforcement, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has been ruthlessly hunting down fraudulent public officials from the lowest to the top level as part of deterrence. The most prominent arrest came last November, when the KPK nabbed then-House of Representatives speaker Setya Novanto for his alleged role in the electronic ID card graft case.

Strong resistance against the crackdown on graft in the most extreme form was displayed in the acid attack in April 2017 against leading KPK investigator Novel Baswedan. He has just returned from his treatment in Singapore; the attackers remain at large, but he said he was increasingly galvanized to fight graft, instead of being broken as the attackers would have hoped.

When it comes to prevention, post-New Order administrations have persistently promoted good governance. To further ensure transparency, the e-government mechanism has also been changing the game in the delivery of public services and business licensing.

The central government also incentivizes local governments that are eager to end bribery while innovating to create business-friendly environments and a serving bureaucracy. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has regularly met with regional heads to assert the shared value of good governance. So with all these efforts, why can’t Indonesia even move closer to the ranks of moderately clean countries in the Transparency International index? Indonesia’s score has hovered around the 30s over the last five years, after a record low of 17 points in 1999.

KPK deputy chief Laode M. Syarif attributed the snail-paced anticorruption drive to the low support from House politicians, many of whom have faced justice for abusing the state budget. More than that, the politicians have frequently launched direct attacks on the KPK through efforts to revise the KPK Law, to undermine the antigraft body. The politicians recently passed a law that can force KPK leaders to comply with their summonses.

While it takes two to corrupt, it requires involvement of all stakeholders to uproot graft. The low CPI score shows the war within remains the toughest challenge in Indonesia’s quest to beat corruption.

(first published in The Jakarta Post – )