Indonesian Commission Opens Access to Documents

19 November 2010

The Indonesian Central Information Commission (KIP) Nov. 15 granted access to materials on education that had been requested by an anti-corruption activist.

The order was hailed as historic by the requester, Febri Hendri, senior researcher with Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), according to a report written by Bagus BT Saragih in The Jakarta Post. “This will be recorded in the history of Indonesia’s freedom of information,” Hendri was quoted as saying.

It’s not the first time the commission has ordered the release of material, but the excitement reflects the freshness of a process that has been under way for less than a year.

In the latest decision, the commission ordered five junior high schools in the Jakarta area and the city education agency to disclose documents pertaining to national education funds that were to supposed to be passed on to low income schools.

The education case is a “first” for that sector, and only the third dispute decision by the commission, according to experts consulted by The commission has also settled 5-6 cases by mediation,  mostly in favor of the complainant.

The seven-person commission is now considering about 30 appeals. Under the 2010 law, dissatisfied requestors can appeal to the commission. Commission decisions may be appealed subsequently in court.

KIP chairman Ahmad Alamsyah Saragih told newspaper that most of the plaintiffs are nongovernmental organizations, but that some appeals have come from corporations, and one came from an individual, a doctor who is requesting her attendance record to protesting her dismissal from a state health center.  The commission’s branches — in Jakarta, East Java and Central Java — have each held one hearing.  

The law says any party refusing to execute commission rulings can be punished with up to three years in jail and Rp 20 million (US$2,240) in fines, but Alamsyah was quoted as saying, “Some plaintiffs … are still complaining that the related state institutions are reluctant to obey our rulings.”

More Cases Expected

“Alamsjah said he expected more cases would come as public awareness of the KIP and the freedom of information law grew,” according to the article.  It continued:

“We plan to launch a massive campaign. But not very soon because the public might be overly enthusiastic while our resources are still limited,” Alamsyah said.

This year the commission received Rp 7.5 billion (US$840,000) from the state budget, which it has proposed to raise up to Rp 13.4 billion for next year, he said.

Commissioners have not received their salaries for more than a year, Alamsjah said, adding that regulatory weaknesses had also been a problem.

Seeking Information on Police Finances

ICW’s Agus Sunaryanto filed a case with KIP in late October against the National Police about 17 large bank accounts allegedly belonging to police generals, according to a report in The Jakarta Post.  ICW said the police had violated the 2008 Law on Freedom of Information by refusing to disclose data concerning suspicious assets.

The newspaper said:

In July, the National Police announced that out of 23 suspicious bank accounts reported by the Financial Transaction Analysis and Report Center (PPATK), 17 were claimed to be cleared up. But they refused to give more data on these cases, or on others not cleared up.

The freedom of information law stipulates that bank account data is not considered confidential if it concerns state officials.

Agus said ICW had asked the National Police for the data on these allegedly fat bank accounts on Aug. 2 but two days later the police rejected this request.

They said the anti-money laundering law prevented them from disclosing personal information about individuals’ bank accounts.

Another IW Request Pending

ICW also has alleged that Education Minister Muhammad Nuh violated the 2010 Freedom of Information Law when his ministry failed to publish a report on the use of funds earmarked for schools in the process of attaining international status, known as RSBI, The Jakarta Post had earlier reported.

“We’ve asked for such documents to be published since June, but there’s been no follow-up from the ministry,” an ICW official said, indicating that embezzlement is suspected.  The information request is for block grant financial reports from 2006-2009.

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