Corruption Whistle-Blower Accused of Libel
Bayu Marhaenjati & Zaky Pawas
Police have named an official from a leading state high school in Jakarta a suspect for libel after he accused the principal of corruption in a blog post.
Musni Umar, the former chairman of the school committee at State Senior High School (SMAN) No. 70 in Bulungan, South Jakarta, was interrogated by police investigators on Monday in relation to his claim that principal Pernon Akbar was embezzling Rp 20 million ($2,100) a month from the school.
Febri Hendri of Indonesia Corruption Watch questioned why the police were not focusing on the graft allegation and said his organization would back Musni.
“We’ve seen evidence that the school principal received monthly payments of Rp 20 million outside of his salary,” he said.
“There are receipts issued by the school committee attesting to this. By law, however, civil servants are prohibited from receiving any payment outside their salary and the school committee has no obligation to pay any money.”
Also backing Musni is the Federation of Indonesian Teachers Unions (FSGI), which joined ICW in accompanying the former SMAN 70 official to the Jakarta Police headquarters for questioning.
Musni, who chaired the school committee from 2009 to 2012, was reported to the authorities by Ricky Agusyady, the current committee chairman, over his blog post in which he said that principal Pernon “deserves to be investigated for allowing corruption at SMAN 70 in order to enrich himself.”
Musni wrote that the school, one of the handful of state schools running an international-standard curriculum (RSBI) had an annual budget of Rp 15 billion, but there was no transparency or accountability in how the money was spent.
Of that amount, only Rp 4.7 million came from the government, with the rest coming from fees paid by the students’ parents. Musni also accused Pernon of amassing Rp 1.2 billion in his personal bank account.
“The way we see it, it’s very suspicious that a school principal who is a civil servant should get Rp 20 million a month in addition to his salary,” Febri said.
“What needs to be investigated is whether this was a bribe or not. We’ll collect all the necessary data and file our own police report.”
He called on the police to drop their libel investigation of Musni, arguing that he was only trying to reveal possible corruption at the school.
“They shouldn’t have processed this report of libel because it’s essentially an effort by the current school committee to gag [Musni], and we don’t want that,” Febri said.
Musni, who is also a member of the group Parents Concerned About Education (APPI), had previously drawn attention to the unusually high salaries paid to teachers at RSBI schools as an indication of questionable fiscal management.
“Some of them receive Rp 35 million a month, which does not make any sense,” he said last year.
“How much must parents be paying in school fees to provide that kind of salary [for the principals]?”
RSBI schools, unlike other public schools, are permitted to charge fees of any amount, but they have come under scrutiny for their lack of fiscal accountability and transparency.