The Jakarta Post, Jakarta Thu, December 27 2012
A new revelation surfaced on Wednesday about possible graft at the Religious Affairs Ministry after an inspector general at the ministry disclosed that officials at the country’s Religious Affairs Office (KUA) had swindled Rp 1.2 trillion (US$124 million) per year from the registration of wedding vows.
Inspector General of the Religious Affairs Ministry M. Jasin, a former deputy chairman at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), revealed that officials regularly asked for more cash from couples wanting to register their marriages.
Jasin said that the KUA charges a couple Rp 30,000 as administrative fee in the recording of the vow, but on many occasions, wedding-vow administrators demanded Rp 500,000.
“There are 2.5 million weddings a year. That’s not including divorces. If we multiply the Rp 2.5 million by Rp 500,000, we have Rp 1.2 trillion,” he told reporters after signing a document to mark the collaboration between the ministry and the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK) in Jakarta.
The inspector general was concerned that the practice was systematic.
“Apart from contributing the official administrative fees to the KUA office, the wedding vow administrator usually contributes a portion of the money to their superiors. The superiors then give some of it to people higher up. It goes all the way up,” Jasin later told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Jasin said the ministry was currently working on the draft of a new regulation that would provide guidelines for marriage vow administrators. He cautioned that this would only solve some of the problems.
“It is hard to handle the problem because you know 80 percent of wedding vows are registered outside of the KUA office. There’s no way we can monitor this,” he said.
Jasin said that the ministry was yet to issue a regulations regarding the fee for vows made outside of the KUA office.
He said that the cash paid to the wedding vow administrator could be considered a gratuity.
Jasin also said that the ministry would work with the PPATK to monitor suspicious transactions involving the bank accounts of ministry officials.
He said that the ministry’s inspector general had uncovered indications of some officials with “fat” bank accounts.
The Religious Affairs Ministry has been widely considered one of the most corrupt ministries in the country, especially in the management of the haj services and money from alms.
The KPK has found irregularities in the use of interest worth Rp 1.7 trillion ($180 million) from the management of the haj fund.
The antigraft body suggested that the government imposed a moratorium on the program until the ministry could settle the fund misuse allegation, which affected more than 1.4 million would-be pilgrims registered at the ministry.
KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto said earlier this month that the antigraft body had actually assigned several of its officials to join the ministry-run haj program to look for evidence of graft.
The KPK’s 2012 integrity survey ranked the ministry at the bottom of a list of 22 government institutions. The ministry received 5.37 from a maximum of 10 points. Meanwhile, the average score was set at 6.00.
Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) blamed the practice of wedding vow administrator gratuities on the lack of transparency at the ministry.
ICW researcher Ade Irawan said that the KUA office never presented complete information about wedding vow registration fees.
“People tend to spend more when it comes to weddings. They prefer to pay more for the administrators rather than rescheduling their vows,” he said.
Ade also said that gratuity-giving was indeed systematic.
“One marriage vow administrator told me that in some offices the performance appraisal or evaluation was based on how much money they could contribute to ministry headquarters in Jakarta,” he said.