“The Indonesian House of Representatives Confronts the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK): Will it Blink?” by Deasy Simandjuntak

2017/41, 7 July 2017

Indonesian anti-graft agency, the Corruption Eradication Commission – or KPK, is under pressure by the House of Representatives which has mounted an inquiry (hak angket) against it. Under Law No. 17/2014, the House can investigate how a law or government policy which has important and strategic significance is implemented. It has requested an audit of the agency’s budget and threatened to reduce KPK’s allocation in the 2018 state-budget. This prolonged tug-of-war between the two institutions has now come into the open.

Established in 2002 to facilitate clean governance, KPK’s mandate includes the investigation, prosecution and prevention of corruption. This independent agency achieved an astonishing 100 percent conviction rate, thus improving Indonesia’s position in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, from 122 in 2003 to 88 in 2015. Many corrupt politicians and government officials have been jailed.

The House initiated the present inquiry following KPK’s ongoing graft-case involving the procurement of electronic identity cards (e-KTP) which incurred state losses of IDR 2.3 trillion (USD 173 million). Although several law-makers and government officials were included in KPK’s indictment in the first trial in March, only two defendants – both officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs – were named. Further investigations have revealed the involvement of more individuals. KPK will now have to to disclose documents related to the e-KTP probe to the House if demanded.

In fact, there were previous attempts by the House to curb KPK. For instance in 2010, the House had pushed to revise the 2002 Anti-graft Law to weaken KPK. This was postponed due to public protests. In 2015, two KPK commissioners were accused of wrongdoing. This was extensively covered by the media but the KPK’s reputation has however remained unscathed.

The House has justified that its current investigation can be the basis to revise the 2002 Anti-graft Law to “improve” the KPK.

Meanwhile, this inquiry has garnered protests. 132 legal-experts led by former Constitutional Court’s Chief Justice Mahfud MD deemed it legally flawed because an inquiry could only be exercised against government institutions, of which KPK is an independent body.

KPK’s chief commissioner Agus Rahardjo has asked the President to intervene; however, as the House has the right to investigate, the inquiry cannot be rescinded by the President. Notwithstanding this constraint however, the President may have to find ways to protect KPK to showcase his commitment to eradicate corruption. Whether or not the anti-graft agency will come out triumphant from this political bout remains to be seen.

Dr Deasy Simandjuntak is Visiting Fellow at the Indonesia Studies Programme at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.

The facts and views expressed are solely that of the author/authors and do not necessarily reflect that of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.  No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission.