COVID-19 relief fund for the taking . . .
Indonesian Social Affairs Minister Juliari Batubara was arrested on Sunday following an investigation by the Corruption Eradication Commission, the country’s anti-corruption agency also known by its Bahasa acronym, KPK. The minister allegedly embezzled approximately C$1.5 million from COVID-19 relief funds. According to the KPK, Juliari and two accomplices (also in custody) collected kickbacks from multiple suppliers tasked with distributing food aid packages to low-income Indonesians affected by the pandemic. Juliari allegedly demanded the equivalent of C$0.91 per basic food package. The KPK successfully recovered C$1.3million of the bribe money after a sting operation in Jakarta, discovering the money stored in numerous suitcases.
Major arrests for the KPK . . .
Minister Juliari is the second high-profile cabinet member caught in anti-graft investigations and the second major KPK arrest in less than three weeks. In November, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister, Edhy Prabowo, was charged with taking C$390,000 in bribes for awarding companies permits to export baby lobsters. His ill-gotten gains were most notably used in a Hawaii luxury shopping spree. While Edhy faces a maximum sentence of 20 years and a C$90,000 fine, Juliari’s punishment may include the death sentence, given his crimes were committed during a national emergency.
Battling corruption through COVID-19 . . .
The KPK’s recent successes are likely to further reinforce Indonesians' cautious optimism in their government’s overall anti-corruption efforts. According to Transparency International, 65 per cent of Indonesians consider their government is doing a ‘good,’ albeit sluggish job battling corruption, an issue 92 per cent of respondents believe to be a ‘big problem.’ President Joko Widodo has respected the KPK’s arrests and has continually urged government agencies to be vigilant against graft and transparent on the disbursement of food or financial aid through the pandemic. The fight against corruption in Indonesia is particularly significant given the country has set aside C$3 billion to procure COVID-19 vaccines and prepare vaccination efforts across 6,000 inhabited islands.
- The Jakarta Post: Indonesia submits vaccine request to COVAX
- The Jakarta Post: Indonesian minister arrested for alleged embezzlement of COVID-19 relief fund
- The Star: Indonesian minister arrested over embezzlement of COVID-19 aid funds