Indonesian Anti-Graft Agency to Sack 51 Staffers amid Row over Ideology Test

Ronna Nirmala
Indonesian Anti-Graft Agency to Sack 51 Staffers amid Row over Ideology Test Students hold a sign depicting an epitaph symbolising the death of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission during a rally in front of the parliament building in Jakarta demanding that lawmakers revoke a revised anti-corruption law, Oct. 1, 2019.

Fifty-one employees with Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission will be fired after flunking a mandatory national loyalty test, the civil service announced, as critics accused the government of getting rid of capable graft busters and undermining the agency’s independence.

The decision to dismiss these Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) staffers followed weeks of controversy that swirled around the so-called National Outlook Test. They were required to pass it as their agency transitions to being run by the civil service, which will take over the KPK later this year, officials said.

The 51 were among 75 KPK employees who failed the test earlier this month, but the 51 failed on particular questions which they had to answer correctly and for which they would have no chance to retake the test, according to Bima Haria Wibisana, the head of the National Civil Service Agency (BKN).

“So from 75, 51 people received negative marks on their views on the state ideology Pancasila, the national constitution, the unitary state of Indonesia and the government,” he said Tuesday in announcing the imminent dismissals of the 51.

“These indicators are non-negotiable, so accommodations cannot be made,” he said.

KPK Deputy Chairman Alexander Marwata said that the 51 would remain employed until Nov. 1, while the 24 others would receive further “guidance.”

KPK employees are required to sit for the exam as part of their switch as employees of the formerly independent agency to the civil service, as mandated under amendments to a law governing the KPK, officials said.

The amendments were passed in 2019 and sparked street protests, where opponents accused the government of using the law to weaken the agency that fights corruption in a country notorious for graft.

The test that KPK employees took was different from the standard entry test required of applicants to the civil service because the KPK staffers were more senior-level government employees, officials said.

The names of the 51 staffers facing dismissal were not released and it was not clear if the list included senior investigator Novel Baswedan, who was among the 75 who failed the test despite his reputation as a qualified KPK investigator with integrity.

On Wednesday, Baswedan said the firings were a nail in the coffin for the commission’s independence and that the test was being used as a pretext to get rid of people committed to fighting corruption.

“The national outlook test is a tool to remove certain KPK employees who have been targeted previously,” Baswedan said in a statement.

“This was expected, and it looks more and more to be by design. This is the final stage of the undermining of the KPK,” he said.

Baswedan was permanently blinded in his left eye when acid was thrown in his face during an attack in 2017. Last year, a Jakarta court convicted and sentenced two low-ranking police to two years and 18 months in prison, respectively, following a trial which the victim himself and rights groups denounced as farcical.

The prosecution had argued that the motive for the attack was personal and not linked to Baswedan’s work for the KPK.

Baswedan and six other investigators who failed the test have handled major corruption cases involving senior politicians, former ministers and police generals, including an ongoing probe involving two former members of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s cabinet.

Baswedan was the lead investigator in a corruption scandal surrounding a national electronic identity card project, which cost the state 2.3 trillion rupiah (U.S. $163 million).

The scandal led to the political downfall of then-parliament Speaker Setya Novanto, who lost the position before being sentenced to 15 years for his role in taking kickbacks.

Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko on Wednesday urged the public to put the controversy over the test to rest.

“We’d better get rid of negative energies and preconceived notions about the KPK,” Moeldoko said in an online press statement.

He said President Jokowi supported the test to measure KPK employees’ commitment to eradicating corruption.

The 2019 law changes the status of the KPK from an independent body into one under the executive branch of the government.

“The transfer of status of KPK employees as civil servants reinforces the government’s commitment to keep the KPK at the forefront of corruption eradication efforts in Indonesia,” Moeldoko said.

Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court rejected a petition filed by former KPK commissioners to overturn the amended law.

Last week, Jokowi waded into the controversy, saying that failure to pass the test “should not be the basis for dismissing the 75 employees.”

“It is necessary to immediately take corrective steps at the individual and organizational level,” Jokowi had said.

A researcher at Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) accused KPK Chairman Firli Bahuri, a police general, of ignoring Jokowi’s call.

“The president as the leader of the civil service and the executive in charge of the KPK under the law should reprimand the KPK’s leadership because I think this has gone too far,” Kurnia Ramadhana told an online discussion on Wednesday.

“It seems that the president has been publicly humiliated,” he said.

ICW also urged the KPK’s supervisory board to evaluate Firli’s leadership which, Kurnia said, lacked integrity and professionalism.

Since it was established in 2002, the KPK has secured the convictions of former ministers, governors, central bankers, legislators, as well as business tycoons, making it one of the most respected and feared institutions in Southeast Asia’s largest country.


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