Thursday, 22 December 2011

UNCAC implementation comes under question

Adnan Topan Husodo, Jakarta | Tue, 11/22/2011 8:47 PM
Indonesia took part in the fourth conference of state parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Marrakech, Morocco late last month.

Ratifying the 2003 convention through enactment of Law No. 7/2006, Indonesia can be perceived as building its commitment, both on a domestic and global level, to the fight against corruption.

The UNCAC was established based on the premise that corruption was threatening the values of democracy, sustainable development, ethical values and the rule of law. Corruption is also seen to threaten political stability since, in many cases, corruption involves assets deemed as important for a country.

Many agree that corruption is not just a domestic crime, but a transnational one that must be combated through international cooperation. The emphasis on international cooperation signifies a new phase in the war on corruption, which requires each state party to the UNCAC to provide assistance to other countries through various instruments that can be used to achieve the goal of an effective anticorruption drive.

As a party to the UNCAC, Indonesia is bound to meeting some fundamental obligations, including synchronizing its domestic laws with the anticorruption provisions that exist in the UNCAC, covering aspects of prevention, criminalization, international cooperation, asset recovery, technical cooperation and the exchange of information and mechanisms for implementation.

One crucial factor that could disrupt the synchronization of Indonesia’s anticorruption regulations with the principles contained within the UNCAC is corrupt politics. In the realm of prevention, Indonesia has a big problem relating to the ethical values of public officials, which remain very poor. The absence of rules on conflicts of interest; the domestic regulation that allows corruption suspects to hold state posts or graft convicts to contest regional elections; the absence of strong administrative sanctions to deprive public officials standing trial for alleged corruption of their salary and facilities, are just a few important points.

The poor code of ethics has paved the way for back-room negotiations over public policymaking processes between state officials, both in the executive and legislative institutions, and businesspeople. The rampant practice of brokerage in budgeting processes within the House of Representatives is evidence of the weak code of ethics enforced on public officials.

The government, too, seems to lack support for the establishment of anticorruption bodies. As a party to the UNCAC, Indonesia should follow the standard rules of the treaty, especially Chapter III, Article 36 on criminalization, which requires it to form competent, specialized bodies that ensure law enforcement measures are taken against people allegedly involved in graft, and to guarantee an independent legal process against corruptors. A state party is also responsible for providing special training and adequate resources for the agencies to perform.

In the case of Indonesia, the government did not allocate a budget for the Indonesian Ombudsman in the 2011 fiscal year; it lacks a budget for investigations into corruption cases conducted by the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office; it failed to pay on time the salaries and incentives owed to judges at the regional corruption courts and members of the Information Commission, and it has failed to recruit a sufficient number of investigators at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK): currently, the KPK possesses only 77 investigators.

To dismiss suspicions that the ratification of the UNCAC is solely aimed at boosting Indonesia’s image in the international community, it is important for the government to improve its commitment in the fight against corruption. One important thing is to show its seriousness in implementing the treaty through accelerating reform of political institutions, promoting accountable and transparent political parties, criminalizing vote-buying practices and raising the bar on the code of ethics for public officials.

The government also needs to improve its domestic commitment toward the synchronization of domestic laws with the UNCAC principles and evaluate the implementation of UNCAC compliance. Some measures that would indicate Indonesia’s adherence to the UNCAC include removing the clause on mandatory permits for investigating public officials suspected of being involved in corruption; imposing tough administrative sanctions on officials suspected and convicted of corruption; and abolishing remissions for graft convicts to strengthen the deterrence effect.

The government should also immediately adopt the criminalization of those involved in trading influence, illicit enrichment, and it should punish foreign officials who commit corrupt practices in Indonesia.

Indeed, the UNCAC can help to steer the country’s anticorruption agenda in the right direction. However, without strong political commitment from the government and the House, the UNCAC will remain a toothless document.