ISS Case Study of KPK: Part 1

The Innovations for Successful Societies program at Princeton University recently published an excellent case study, by Gabrial Kuris, on Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).  It’s a quick and easy read, divided in two chronological parts: 2002-2007, covering the commission’s establishment and initial investigations; and 2007-2011, covering a period of consolidation and, more recently, political attacks.  I particularly like the way he tells the story in the voices of those interviewed, which includes an impressive array of (mostly positive) commissioners, judges, and civil society actors.  The abstract and some quotes from the first part follow (a link to report is at the bottom of the page):

“INVITING A TIGER INTO YOUR HOME”: INDONESIA CREATES AN ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION WITH TEETH, 2002 – 2007

In 2002, under domestic and international pressure to confront corruption after the economic and political collapse of the 32-year Suharto regime, Indonesia established the Corruption Eradication Commission (the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi, or KPK). The new commission had powers so strong that one anti- corruption activist said Indonesian politicians were “inviting a tiger into [their] home” by creating it. Still, the public reacted warily, mindful of past failures and distrustful of the commissioners approved by Parliament. After creating an effective operating structure, the commissioners spent more than a year building capacity by introducing innovative human resources policies, cutting- edge technologies, strong ethical codes and savvy investigative tactics. The commission then launched a series of investigations that netted dozens of high- level officials and politicians, with a 100% conviction rate. By the end of 2007, the KPK was standing on a stable foundation, buttressed by solid public support.

 

A study of newspaper records from the 1950s through the early 1990s led Sunaryadi to conclude that public interest in corruption was “not significant” during that period of economic growth, insurrection and autocracy. (p. 3)

Gregory Churchill, an American legal adviser involved in Indonesian judicial reforms, described the commission as a reform long desired by Indonesians but ultimately enabled by foreign pressure. Describing the IMF loans’ letters of intent, Churchill said, “If you dig deep, you find that the ideas in those letters come from Indonesian reformers. These were ideas that had been in the works, in their desk drawers, waiting for reform. The KPK was one of them.” (p. 4)

Danang Widoyoko, chairman of the nonprofit Indonesia Corruption Watch, said, “Indonesia has had anti- corruption agencies in the past, but most of them failed because of a lack of resources, a lack of authority. (p. 4)

The committee settled on Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) as the primary model for the planned KPK and hired as a consultant Bertrand de Speville, a retired ICAC commissioner. “The KPK is styled quite closely after Hong Kong,” Sunaryadi said. (p. 5)

The draft law gave the KPK stronger powers than the ICAC and most peer agencies worldwide. (p. 5)

The law created an organizational hierarchy that was unusually flat and simple for an Indonesian agency. (p. 6)

KPK agents could make arrests, conduct searches and seizures, investigate and freeze assets, ban suspects from foreign travel, and compel cooperation from any other government agency . Most controversially , they could intercept telecommunications without prior judicial approval. “In the law, it’s only one sentence,” said Sunaryadi. “Nobody knew one sentence would be so powerful.” (p.7)

As an institutional check on the KPK’s power, the law required the commission to report annually to the president, Parliament and the state auditor … Parliament also controlled the KPK’s budget. Parliament confirmed KPK commissioners from a pool of 10 nominated by the president based on the work of a selection committee under the justice ministry … Once confirmed, commissioners served four-year terms without any possibility of impeachment or removal unless subject to a criminal charge.  (pp. 7-8)

The commissioners unanimously adopted a strategy to focus on building internal capacity before taking on cases. “The first step was capacity building,” Ruki said, “to prepare the infrastructure, the systems and the supporting facility . ” The downside to this strategy was that to the expectant public it looked like the KPK was dragging its feet. (p. 8)

The KPK received “very high international support,” according to KPK adviser Nugroho, who managed foreign assistance to the commission. (p. 9)

As a test case, Sunaryadi asked a judge of the South Jakarta regional district court to let him record a trial in early 2004. Sunaryadi said the court “used to be called ‘the Cemetery of the Attorney General’ because [prosecutors] lost every big corruption case.” Surprising the prosecutors, the judge not only agreed but also told Sunaryadi to start his recording with a trial only five days away. (p. 9)

“The most difficult thing was to convince the Ministry of Administrative Reform,” recalled Sunaryadi. “Unfortunately, most people inside that ministry were not reform minded…” (p. 10)

He said he visited the head of MenPAN at home and told him, “You have to choose. You become our supporter or our enemy. … I know you have fictitious expenditures. … Unless you agree to this government regulation, I will investigate.” (p. 10)

Kemala said she tried to weed out applicants who appeared to be motivated mainly by financial considerations … The process was highly selective. In the system’s first year, KPK received 12,000 applications for 100 positions. By 2010, the applicant pool neared 45,000. (p. 11)

Kemala said one accepted applicant said to her, “Thank you ma’am. Now I have moved to an institution where I don’t have to be corrupt.” (p. 11)

[T]he KPK compensated staff for work expenses “at cost,” meaning that necessary expenses were reimbursable. Other agencies used a lump-sum system that disbursed fixed amounts per case, a policy that encouraged staff to minimize travel, dispose of cases quickly and pocket the unused cash. (p. 12)

The KPK developed rigorous codes of ethics for commissioners as well as staff, relying heavily on staff input. (p. 13)

Sunaryadi examined Indonesian corruption prosecutions and found that about 85% were based on the nebulous crime of “creating financial loss to the state.” (p. 14)

“The hardest thing was to meet public expectations [that were] increasing every day,” Ruki said. “When I caught a governor, they said, ‘You have never caught a general.’ When I caught a general, they said, ‘You never caught a minister.’ When I caught a minister: ‘What about the president?’” (p. 16)

“Before the KPK, we were feeding 60 corruption cases to the attorney general’s office, and no cases were followed up,” said Danang Widoyoko of Indonesia Corruption Watch. “We send a report to the KPK, and the KPK will follow up.” (p. 16)

As a former legislator and senior police officer, Ruki was a key mediator. “I had good relations with the legislators personally , ” he said. “I also knew personally the heads of each of the political parties, so I could communicate with them in a good way, more or less. … I had a close connection with the chief of police, attorney general and Supreme Court chief. I could approach them personally. This is the Indonesian way.” (p. 18)

According to Hardjapemekas, the commissioners had hoped to “trigger police and prosecutors to do a better job, and the executive branch of state as a whole to reform themselves to be more productive.” Hardjapemekas conceded that the strategy had failed to produce immediate change. (p. 19)

Commissioner Amien Sunaryadi said he learned at least six lessons from his experience in building the Corruption Eradication Commission. … study international best practices … [set] strong administrative policies in the areas of human resources management, financial management, information technology and operations … combating and preventing corruption must proceed in tandem … “stick to the mission” … importance of third- party assistance … identify when momentum emerges” in order to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. (p. 19)

As the KPK’s first commissioners stepped down in December 2007, they had shown the benefits of their strong powers and careful strategy of capacity building. (p. 20)

The report is available from ISS’s website here: “Inviting a Tiger into Your Home”: Indonesia Creates an Anti-Corruption Commission with Teeth: 2002-2007.

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