September 14, 2023
JAKARTA – The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is embroiled in another controversy following a report of a meeting between a commissioner and a detainee, which is a violation of the law that prohibits commissioners from interacting with persons under graft investigation.
The controversy emerged following an anonymous tip to the KPK supervisory board that a graft detainee allegedly visited the 15th floor of the KPK headquarters in South Jakarta. The identity of the KPK commissioner and the detainee remains unclear.
KPK spokesperson Ali Fikri confirmed that the 15th floor of the building consisted of offices of the commissioners. But he refused to answer whether one of the KPK leaders had a meeting with one of the detainees.
“All questioning of suspects takes place on the second floor,” Ali said.
KPK deputy chairman Nawawi Pomolango claimed that he had not heard about the meeting, asserting that such a meeting would violate the law.
The KPK Law prohibits the antigraft body leaders from communicating, either directly or indirectly, with anyone currently being investigated by graft busters. Any commissioner found violating such a provision can face up to five years’ imprisonment.
The KPK supervisory board had received the report, said supervisory board member Albertina Ho. “We are still processing and reviewing the report,” she said.
The ethics investigation into the alleged meeting was the latest probe of KPK commissioners.
The board is still working on an ethics investigation into deputy chairman Johanis Tanak, who was found to be in contact with Muhammad Idris Froyoto Sihite, the deputy inspector general of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, when graft busters investigated an alleged corruption case at the ministry.
The board is scheduled to announce its decision against Johanis on Thursday.
No deterrent effect
Johanis’ predecessor Lili Pintauli Siregar was also embroiled in scandals for being close contact with Muhammad Syahrial, then mayor of Tanjungbalai in North Sumatra, when the regional head was under KPK scrutiny in an alleged bribery case. The supervisory board found her guilty and punished her by reducing her basic salary by 40 percent for 12 months.
Lili later resigned from her position as KPK deputy chair in July last year amid another ethics investigation pertaining to an alleged gratuity she accepted to attend the MotoGP Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia in Mandalika, West Nusa Tenggara.
If the meeting between a KPK leader and a detainee did take place, it proved that conflicts of interest had repeatedly occurred within the antigraft body, said Praswad Nugraha of the IM57+ Institute, a corruption watchdog established by former KPK employees.
“Unfortunately, there’s no severe punishment to create a deterrent effect for the perpetrators,” Praswad said.
The KPK has been marred by controversies since police general Firli Bahuri took charge as chairman in 2019. The scandals have ranged from a widely criticized civic knowledge test used to justify the dismissal of dozens of KPK employees in 2021, to the contentious dismissal of Endar Priantoro, a police brigadier general who was seconded as the KPK investigation director, in March.
A KPK employee has also been accused of sexual assault against the wife of a KPK detainee. The case only came to light after the woman reported it to the KPK supervisory board. An investigation by the supervisory board later found that the employee, identified only by the initial M, also took bribes from detainees and their families.
The employee was found guilty of the assault and a supervisory board ethics hearing in April punished him with a pay cut. M was eventually fired last week, spokesperson Ali said.
Despite the series of scandals marring the antigraft body, the government recently extended the tenure of Firli and his fellow commissioners beyond the initial Dec. 20 end-date. The extension was made following a Constitutional Court ruling in May that extended the KPK leaders’ terms from four to five years.