Corrupt commission

Kompas Newspaper – January 24, 2024

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Supervisory Board began a series of ethics hearings on January 17 into 93 employees who are accused of soliciting illegal payments from detainees at the KPK's detention centre in exchange for prison perks.

The board, which questioned some 169 people in its investigation including former detainees as well as former and current employees at the detention centre, found various pieces of evidence including cash deposit receipts. It is believed that payments ranged from 1 million rupiah (US$64) to 500 million rupiah each.

The illegal levies came to light in June last year when the board investigated a detention centre worker over sexual misconduct allegations. The employee was subsequently found guilty of sexually assaulting the wife of a KPK detainee.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) researcher Kurnia Ramadhana told the Jakarta Post that the latest scandal shows the KPK is unable to properly supervise its employees and prevent the very bribery and corruption it is supposed to combat.

"The act of buying and selling [services] allegedly occurring in detention centers is nothing new, as it often occurs in other correctional institutions", Ramadhana said in a statement. "[The KPK] should have been able to build a monitoring system that could mitigate these corrupt practices".

Ramadhana added that the scandal, which has surfaced on top of a slew of other ethical violations by KPK employees, stems from the questionable leadership of former KPK Chairperson Firli Bahuri.

Bahuri has faced numerous allegations of breaching KPK ethics. In 2018, when he was KPK deputy chief, he was found to have violated the agency's ethics code by meeting with then West Nusa Tenggara governor Muhammad Zainul Majdi, who was a witness in a corruption case at the time.

Bahuri was subsequently recalled to the police force but despite this, in 2019 President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo went ahead and appointed him as KPK chief overriding the objections of legal experts and civil society groups.

In November 2023, the police named Bahuri a suspect for allegedly extorting former agriculture minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo. The following month the KPK Ethics Board ruled that Bahuri was guilty of violating the commission's code of ethics by being in private contact with Limpo while the minister was under investigation.

"It's difficult to deny that the illegal levies committed by dozens of employees were caused by the lack of [good] role models at the KPK", Ramadhana told the Post, adding that two KPK leaders appointed by President Widodo in 2019 have now been found to have violated the ethics code.

In July 2022 the Ethics Board also found former KPK commissioner Lili Pintauli Siregar guilty of serious ethical violations for maintaining close contact with a person of interest in a KPK investigation. She subsequently resigned from her position amid another ethics probe against her.

Once seen as the country's most effective graft-fighting institution, the KPK's independence and authority to investigate and prosecute corruption cases were severely weakened by the enactment of the revised KPK Law in late 2019, which was rushed through parliament in the face of widespread and often violent public opposition.

Public trust in the institution plummeted further following the string of scandals that have plagued the institution under Bahuri's leadership.