JAKARTA--Impressed by Japan's ruling party efforts to eliminate wasteful spending through an open screening process, lawmakers in Indonesia say that same approach could be applied to root out corruption at home.
Japan Initiative, a think tank that has helped many local governments in Japan screen their spending programs to weed out waste, held a training session here May 16 to explain how to go about it.
The session in Jakarta was the first for the organization overseas.
"Once a budget is disclosed to the public, the opportunity to corrupt a public works project lessens considerably," said a participant.
The session was jointly sponsored by Dewan Perwakilan Daerah (Regional Representative Council) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). About 250 people attended, including DPD members, heads of local governments and local government employees.
The decision to hold the training session in Jakarta came on the heels of a visit to Japan by a group of Indonesian lawmakers under a JICA initiative. The lawmakers left Japan dazzled by the Democratic Party of Japan's efforts to weed out wasteful spending through the screening process.
"We want to crack down on corruption and nepotism by securing greater transparency through the process of eliminating wasteful spending," said DPD speaker Irman Gusman.
Hideki Kato, president of Japan Initiative, told the participants: "This process will respond to requests to get rid of corruption and redistribute the budget. We hope the process of screening that is open to the public will become a norm for Asian democracies."
The session involved an explanation of the basic principles behind the process, as well as a mock screening session of actually trying to weed out wasteful spending.
The element that drew the greatest interest was the idea of the screening process to the public in order to eliminate wasteful use of taxpayers' money.
Because corruption is so endemic to Indonesia, with frequent reports of civil servants and politicians receiving bribes, there are special investigative agencies and courts that handle such cases.
"Officials think corruption is a necessary evil to such an extent that tacit approval is given to include something for corrupt spending when compiling the budget," said DPD member Dani Anwar.
A local government worker said, "In Indonesia, a project for which 10 billion rupiah (87 million yen) has been set aside, will inflate to 15 billion rupiah during the course of parliamentary deliberations."
The factor that many participants had doubts about was who would actually be involved in the screening process.
There was one proposal to ask a private-sector organization that monitors corruption cases to handle the process.
One participant said: "Those who are asked to serve as screeners will likely be flooded with bribes from companies and bureaucrats. It would not be a laughing matter if those individuals ended up being arrested on corruption charges."
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