Exercise in Futility

A government official from Jakarta attempting to stamp out endemic corruption in Bali is wasting his time by saying it can be tackled though efficient recruitment processes – weeding out those seeking to bribe their way in the door.

Hendro Witjaksono of the grandly titled Ministry for Administrative and Bureaucratic Reforms, which has its own war to fight in terms of reducing the sheer mountains of business-deflecting red tape found in government offices right around the country, also said in Denpasar this week that proper law enforcement would ensure a fall-off in graft. He’s wrong there, too.

Radical, shake-up reform is indeed required to stop corruption from happening, but it’s not going to happen as long as those employed in the civil service are paid a pittance.

It is regrettable that with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – whose main platform has been eradicating graft – now in his second term, corruption is as rife as ever – some say worse.  It is a hard fact of Indonesian life that if you don’t bribe officials, you don’t get anywhere. That includes getting your children into schools, obtaining simple certification and documents right up to winning a court case.

It remains true that in many departments, people hoping to get jobs expect to pay staggering sums in order to be employed. In many instances, because the unofficial entry fee is so extraordinarily high (hundreds of millions of rupiah, for example), bank loans are taken out, thereby creating a sort of black-market loan scheme that must be fed by repayments. How do you repay that sort of money on a salary that can be as miniscule as the equivalent of US$100? There are expectations everywhere, of those seeking jobs to those looking for services and paperwork.

Suggesting that by somehow streamlining this corrupt recruitment process, and ordering graft-ridden enforcement officers to clamp down, would end the sordid practice is a fallacy. When Mr Witjaksono next sees his boss at the State Palace, he should have a word about really instituting change – starting by paying real salaries that will largely remove the temptation.

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