Public apology not enough: Critics demand dismissal of corruption watchdog employees over illegal levies

The antigraft body has been embroiled in multiple scandals since 2019, the latest over the alleged extortion implicating Firli Bahuri, who was recently removed as chairman.

Alifia Sekar

Alifia Sekar

The Jakarta Post


Seventy-eight employees of the Corruption Eradication Commission, who were found guilty of an ethics breach related to illegal levies at KPK detention centers, make a public apology on Feb. 26, 2024 at the antigraft body’s Jakarta headquarters. PHOTO: ANTARA/THE JAKARTA POST

March 1, 2024

JAKARTA – The public apology delivered on Monday by dozens of employees of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has been met with activists criticizing the punishment as too lenient and demanding their dismissal instead.

At least 78 detention center employees apologized publicly at the antigraft body’s Jakarta headquarters as punishment for committing an ethics violation: The KPK Supervisory Council found last week that they were guilty of soliciting illegal payments from detainees or their families in exchange for perks between 2018 and 2023.

The disgraced employees delivered their mass apology in front of the KPK’s deputy chairman Alexander Marwata and secretary-general Cahya Harefa, as well as members of the supervisory council.

“As a part of the KPK, I am deeply concerned about the sanctioning of [these] employees for their [unethical] actions that deviated from the antigraft body’s principles [of] integrity, justice and professionalism,” Cahya said.

Following a recommendation from the council, the KPK’s general secretariat and inspectorate general are conducting a follow-up investigation on whether the employees violated its disciplinary code.

Under the code, dismissal is the maximum sanction for an administrative violation.

KPK spokesperson Ali Fikri said in an Instagram post on Wednesday that the inspectorate general had interrogated several employees of the group, adding that “all of them will be questioned eventually”.

But Ali said this would not necessarily lead to their dismissal.

He also said KPK investigators had also launched a criminal investigation into the illegal levies, which could be categorized as corruption.

Diky Anandya of Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) said on Wednesday that public apology as punishment was “too light and [insufficient] compared to the corruption” the KPK employees had committed.

Such leniency would further erode the already declining public trust in the KPK, he said.

The antigraft body has been embroiled in multiple scandals since 2019, the latest over the alleged extortion implicating Firli Bahuri, who was recently removed as KPK chairman.

Diky emphasized that he was not blaming the supervisory council because it had no authority to hand down sanctions stronger than a public apology, but suggested that the KPK secretary-general dismiss the employees if they were found to have violated the commission’s disciplinary code.

The council’s 2021 regulation stipulates that a public apology is the maximum punishment it can impose on KPK employees found guilty of an ethics violation.

Researcher Zaenur Rohman from Gadjah Mada University’s Center for Anti-Corruption Studies (Pukat UGM) also called for the dismissal of the guilty KPK workers.

He also suggested the 2019 KPK Law be revised to merge its ethics and disciplinary procedures under a single body.

It was “not ideal” to have the supervisory council in charge of ethics violations and the secretariat handing disciplinary violations, he said, because the two bodies “can have different judgments”.

Zaenur added that the police could also open a criminal investigation into the KPK workers that had received illegal payments from detainees and their families.

The scandal came to light last June, when the supervisory council investigated a KPK detention center worker over an allegation of sexual misconduct.

The council found that between 2018 and 2023, dozens of detention center workers had pocketed illicit money totaling Rp 6 billion (US$383,249), with each employee receiving between Rp 1 million and Rp 425 million in illegal levies.

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