In the absence of capable budget analysts, observers said lawmakers should be stripped from budgeting authority to avoid corruption in the House of Representatives.
Jamil Mubarok of the Indonesian Transparency Society told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that the lawmakers’ authority to increase or decrease budget allocations without proper guidance had created a wide channel for corruption.
“It’s better to take that authority from the lawmakers,” Jamil said.
A spate of corruption allegations against lawmakers has called into question the accountability of the House — especially its budget committee — in approving the state budget.
Dubbed the budget mafia, lawmakers on the budget committee have reportedly sought bribes from local administrations to pass budget items.
In the high-profile South East Asian Games bribery scandal, several lawmakers have been accused of manipulating the winning project bid of construction company PT Duta Graha Indah in exchange for billions of rupiah.
Following the allegations, House leaders have invited the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) to attend the committee meetings.
University of Indonesia economist Faisal Basri said the committee should limit its function to monitoring and examining annual budget plans and allocations.
“The committee is often technically involved in determining budget allocations, which should not happen in the initial round,” he said.
Budgeting tasks involve more technical issues than simply political decisions. The absence of technical consideration has left the lawmakers without official grounds for assessing the budget plans proposed by the government.
In the United States, Congress has the Congressional Budget Office, a federal agency that provides economic data to legislators.
Such an office could offer analysis on specific policies and program issues related to the budget, and would remove the need for the House to meddle with numbers.
Jamil said that the assistance of a professional budget office could be applied in Indonesia, but to do so, the Legislative Bodies Law must be amended, which could be time consuming.
The most immediate option would be to make the committee more transparent and reprimand the executive branch for being seduced by bribe proposals from irresponsible legislators, Jamil said.
House Deputy Speaker Pramono Anung of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle told the Post on Sunday that it was true that the House leadership had agreed to invite the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) to attend every budgetary body meeting.
“This is our response to the public that has questioned the body’s transparency,” he said.
Pramono said that the KPK had always been able to monitor the meetings, but now they could ask for formal documents from the budgetary body more easily.
Though he admitted that by inviting the KPK and BPK to observe the budget committee would not directly be cleansed of corruption, he was optimistic that it could be beneficial in the future.
Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) researcher Ade Irawan said that allowing the KPK and BPK to observe would not bother the budget mafia because most of their deals were made long before the budgetary meetings.
“We also worry that by involving the KPK and BPK, the committee may legitimately try to claim that it has been transparent enough,” he said. (rpt)
Sumber: The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 09/19/2011