KPK Questions Religious Affairs Minister on Alleged Corruption

JAKARTA ~

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Tuesday questioned Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali on an alleged corruption in hajj funds collected by the government.

“I dont know what kind of questions they (investigators) will ask or what exactly is the problem in the hajj funds,” Suryadharma Ali said when arriving at KPKs building in South Jakarta this morning.

Suryadharma said the hajj costs are always decided through meetings with members of the parliament. The Chief of United Development Party (PPP) also said hajj funds are always audited by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) every year.

Previously, Deputy Chief of the KPK Bambang Widjojanto said there are three main focus of investigation in the alleged corruption in the hajj fund case, namely the cost of the hajj pilgrimage, accommodation and the people who are selected to go for hajj free of costs.

Commenting on the speculation that there is a special budget at the Religious Affairs Ministry to sponsor family members of high-ranking officials to go for hajj, Suryadharma denied it.

“There is no such thing,” he said.

In 2013, the Financial Transactions Analysis and Reporting Center (PPATK) reported that there are indications of malfeasance in the management of hajj pilgrimage under the Religious Affairs Ministry.

“We strongly suspect irregularities in the management of the hajj pilgrimage. Currently, we are auditing the cost as we view that the spending was not transparently reported,” PPATKs chairman Muhammad Yusuf said.

Yusuf said in the period of 2004-2012, the operational cost of hajj pilgrimage reached Rp80 trillion, with interest at Rp2.3 trillion.

“Hajj pilgrims should not have to face difficulties in traveling from Mecca to Madinah with such a large fund available,” Yusuf added.

Another indication of corruption is that the fund is placed in a single bank without a clear standard for its placement, he said.

“Why is the fund placed in the “X” bank and not in the “Y” bank in which the interest is higher? There should be standardization for the placement of funds,” he noted.

He also cited a number of other indications of irregularities, such as the lack of transparency in the purchase of foreign exchange.

He said the case has been reported to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for legal investigation.

Previously, deputy chairman of the KPK Busyro Muqqodas said the KPK had sent four investigators to Mecca and Madinah to probe the case further.

Busryo described as spectacular the amount of fund spent on catering and accommodation, which had risen to Rp45 trillion, all of it from the state fund.

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