​Indonesia’s plans for anti-graft agency risk breaching UN convention, OECD expert warns

10 September 2019 3:39pm

9 September 2019, by Ben Lucas and Jet Damazo-Santos

Plans to overhaul the law that that governs Indonesia’s anti-graft agency risk breaching international anti-corruption conventions, a senior OECD expert warned. 

The proposed changes to the 2002 Corruption Eradication Commission Law, which were accepted by the country’s House of Representatives on 5th September 2019, would formally bring the agency under the government’s oversight and create a supervisory board for it appointed by lawmakers.

Although it is not yet clear when the amendments will be voted upon, lawmakers want to pass the reforms before the current parliamentary term finishes on Sept. 30. However, President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, has the power to veto the plans should he wish.

The country’s Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, has “rejected” the bill, saying it would jeopardize the independence of its investigations.

Drago Kos, chair of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Working Group on Bribery, warned Indonesian lawmakers against any attempts to undermine the agency.

“From the planned changes concerning the position and powers of the KPK, it is relatively easy to understand the goal of the Indonesian lawmakers — to disable effective conduct of corruption investigations by the KPK,” Kos told MLex.

“If the president will allow these changes to materialize, he, together with the current parliament of Indonesia, will be remembered for allowing one of the most credible anti-corruption institutions in the world to be crippled, if not destroyed,” he added.

The KPK has for years been named in independent surveys as the most trusted state institution in Indonesia, ranking several notches above parliament and other law enforcement institutions.

Kos also said the “planned amendments are breaching international conventions, such as the UN Convention against Corruption and the OECD Convention against Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.”

According to Article 6 of the UN convention, which Indonesia ratified in 2006, each country should provide anti-corruption agencies with "the necessary independence ... to enable the body or bodies to carry out its or their functions effectively and free from any undue influence."

Indonesia isn’t a signatory to the OECD convention, but it is listed as a "key partner" to the group, and shares information with group members. Kos said it would have to ratify the treaty if it wanted to join.

“Contrary to what the lawmakers supporting the amendments might think, this law adopted will not only have internal, national consequences, but also external, international consequences. One of them will surely be the ruined image of a country which still serves as a role model in fighting corruption for so many other countries around the world,” Kos said.

Under the plans, the KPK would have to obtain approval from a new supervisory board to use its wire-tapping powers, which have been key to maintaining its near 100 percent conviction rate.

	Eliot Gao