Tempo Magazine

Sept 1, 2017

The Corruption Eradication Commission should not play down the actions of its members which can potentially undermine the agency`s independency. No matter how strongly it withstands external assaults, the commission will eventually crumble if it does not take seriously the elements eating away at the organization from within.

The alleged ‘tryst’ between a KPK personnel and graft suspects came to light at the height of its investigation into the electronic ID card (e-KTP) mega corruption which left Rp5.9 trillion in state losses. During a questioning, one of the witnesses, Miryam Haryani, expressed her surprise that her colleagues at the House of Representatives (DPR) were aware of the details of her interrogation schedule, supposedly a piece of confidential information. She suspected that a mole within the KPK had leaked the information. In addition, she also mentioned that seven investigators, including police Brig. Gen. Aris Budiman, KPK’s director of investigation, had a meeting with DPR’s legal commission members, which is forbidden.

Miryam’s allegations may prove untrue but should not be discounted. KPK should be lauded for launching an internal probe. Aris also offered himself to be questioned. A thorough investigation is crucial to find the guilty party and to determine if similar violation had occurred in other cases. It should be noted that the agency is currently under fire for its alleged improper investigation methods as DPR’s special committee continues to pursue the inquiry right, allegedly to curb the agency’s authority. Ethics violation by unscrupulous individuals within the KPK could further weaken its position.

The nation should be concerned. The agency, which should be a mighty and independent institution, has been infiltrated by more than a couple of people trying to derail investigations-particularly the e-KTP graft case. This suspicion makes sense as the case involves massive amounts of money and big names. It is not an implausible notion that those targeted by the KPK are now cooking up strategies-including an ‘illicit relation’ with investigators-to get off the hook.

Indications are there. The process of naming the speaker of parliament Setya Novanto as suspect, for example, looked suspicious from the start. Director of Investigation Aris Budiman was adamant that there was not enough evidence to charge Setya, although in the case hearing, the KPK leaders, the prosecution team and the investigators considered the evidence to be sufficient. Even after the hearing, Aris in his progress report still said Setya should not be a suspect. The KPK leaders had to intervene and had the report revised so as to name Setya as suspect.

Aris Budiman’s name also popped up during the uproar within the KPK when its senior investigator, Novel Baswedan, was slapped with a second warning letter. The sanction was handed down after Novel, in his capacity as chairman of the KPK employee union, protested against Aris’s recruitment of five senior police investigators to head investigation task forces.

Novel questioned Aris’s initiative for recruiting mid-level police officers, while KPK regulations stipulate that the positions should be filled by entry-level officers. Novel was worried that the move might upset the investigators’ independency. The protest earned Novel a warning letter, but the letter was later revoked following a public outcry after the news of his reprimand leaked.

KPK must resolve internal discords and clean up its house amid escalating onslaught from outside. It must reinforce itself, among others, by improving the recruitment process. Otherwise, internal contentions may prove more lethal than attacks from outside.

KPK’s reliance on the police force to supply investigators must stop. The practice of internal recruitment should be continued, or even intensified. Independent recruitment will enable the agency to instil an institutional culture, including the spirit of independence from crippling influence from outside.

In ‘managing’ investigators, the agency’s leaders should not hesitate to apply a ‘carrot and stick’ principle, by promoting performers and suspending errant officers. They should not let outside parties use rogue investigators to influence case investigations. Nor should they allow themselves to be cowered into inaction