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 Its Bluff Called, City Council Starts to Wilt in Dispute With Basuki

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BerichtOnderwerp: Its Bluff Called, City Council Starts to Wilt in Dispute With Basuki   di 3 maa 2015 - 1:28

The Jakarta Globe, Mar 02, 2015

Jakarta. The National Democratic (NasDem) Party on Monday retracted its support for a legislative inquiry that could lead to impeachment proceedings against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, following the latter’s vow to reveal alleged budget manipulation by the Jakarta City Council and setting the stage for more U-turns.

Patrice Rio Capella, the secretary general of the party known as NasDem, said the party’s central leadership board had instructed all of its members in the City Council to withdraw their support from a vote that passed last week calling for an inquiry against Basuki.

“We would also like to apologize for disrupting public services [as a result of the standoff] which has drained much energy and attention and disrupted the development of Jakarta,” Patrice said, adding that the instruction came directly from NasDem chairman Surya Paloh.

In an unprecedented move, Basuki has refused to submit the Rp 90 trillion ($6.94 billion) budget proposal approved by the City Council to the Home Affairs Ministry — submitting instead what he says is the lower-cost version, at Rp 78 trillion, that his administration had initially proposed to the council.

Incensed, the City Council voted overwhelmingly last Thursday to launch an inquiry into his refusal to submit its version of the budget to the Home Affairs Ministry — a process that could potentially lead to Basuki facing impeachment.

In response, Basuki accused the councilors of inserting unauthorized and dubious spending programs into City Hall’s budget, and just a day later filed a criminal complaint with the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, over the Rp 12 trillion markup.

Spooked councilors

In calling the City Council’s bluff, Basuki appears to have spooked at least one party, NasDem, which was left scrambling for excuses for its flip-flop.

Enggartiasto Lukito, a member of the party’s central leadership board, claimed NasDem had indeed been committed to the council’s plan for an inquiry, which he said would have also expose any attempt to inflate the budget.

“But because [the KPK] has pledged to investigate the case,” he said, NasDem felt the council’s inquiry is no longer necessary. “We urge the KPK to prioritize what [Basuki] has reported,” he added.
Basuki praised NasDem for dropping its support for the inquiry.”

“NasDem is right for saying that it wants an investigation into the Rp 12 trillion [in unsanctioned programs] and moving away from supporting the inquiry,” he said at City Hall. “Other parties that say they want the Rp 12 trillion [in programs] dropped but that continue to support the call for an inquiry against [me] are being hypocritical.”

Unconditional support

The KPK vowed last week vowed to follow up on Basuki’s allegation, after the governor deposited several reams of paperwork that he said held evidence of “stealth spending” inserted into the budget after it was submitted by City Hall to the City Council.

The illicit spending, he said, was confirmed by separate audits conducted by the Jakarta Supreme Audit Agency (BPKD) and the Regional Development Planning Agency (Bappeda).

Basuki also said he had secured “unconditional support” from President Joko Widodo, who promised to end similar practices nationwide.

NasDem is a member of Joko’s ruling coalition, which is led by the president’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P.

Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, a PDI-P member, said he would push his party colleague to also drop their support for the inquiry into Basuki.

“I hope all [parties] drop their support for the inquiry,” he said. “Let the Home Affairs Ministry resolve [the budget dispute] and let’s just focus on what the people really need. We need to get the budget approved so that we can resume our work.”

Given that Djarot, Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo and City Council Speaker Prasetio Edi Marsudi are all from the PDI-P, the problem should be resolved soon, said Hasto Kristiyanto, the party’s acting secretary general.

“Whatever the problem is, the people should not be the ones to suffer. All sides must sit down and resolve this matter with a cool head,” he said.

But Hasto stressed that the PDI-P had not withdrawn its support for the inquiry.

Djarot said Tjahjo had agreed to facilitate a meeting between City Council leaders and City Hall.

Ministry spokesman Dodi Riatmadji said separately that his office was examining the original budget proposed by Basuki’s office and the version approved by the council.

“The result [of the examination] will be submitted [to City Hall] on [Saturday],” he said, adding that both parties must respect whatever decision the ministry made on the issue. “The governor and the council [...] are both part of the city,” he said.

Tjahjo said his ministry would not meddle in the KPK’s investigation into the matter, saying his only concern was “the administrative side of things.”

“I met with the council speaker and deputy governor in Jakarta on Sunday. But we haven’t reached an agreement. We will meet again [on Tuesday],” he said.

Tjahjo also lauded Basuki’s move to expose the alleged budget manipulation.

“If there are indeed unsanctioned programs, then we must hold the budget while the political and legal processes take place,” he said.

Unsolicited spending

Among the spending items that the councilors allegedly inserted into the budget was the procurement of uninterruptible power supply systems for 55 schools across the city, at a cost of nearly Rp 6 billion each. The schools say they neither need nor asked for the devices, whose prices are highly inflated from retail prices.

Former Jakarta Education Office chief Lasro Marbun said the procurement of similar equipment was also included in the city budget last year. And as with the current proposal, it was never requested by his office.

“The planning, budgeting, usage and procurement process of these UPS machines is being investigated by the State Finance Development Comptroller [BPKP]. My office never requested it; we don’t know who did or why,” Lasro said.

He added that his office quickly halted last year’s procurement after discovering the unsanctioned program.

This year’s budget also calls for a “biographical trilogy” on the governor, which Basuki said he had never heard about.

Lasro, now the city administration’s inspector general, said the education office had also not asked for the trilogy.

The Jakarta Globe has independently verified that last year’s procurement of UPS machines was unsolicited by the schools, many of which do not have computers. A search for the companies appointed to provide the equipment led to dilapidated warehouse and empty buildings.

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