District Antigraft Courts Still a Long Way Off: Judges
The Supreme Court warned on Friday that the government’s ambitious plan to build Anti-Corruption Courts across the country could not commence anytime soon due to basic shortcomings, including financial constraints and a lack of competent judges.
The top court complained that it didn’t even have enough money to buy advertising to recruit judges. And construction of the initial 17 courthouses would require at least Rp 400 billion ($44.4 million).
“Budget constraint appears to be the biggest stumbling block. We don’t have the money to pay for ads or hire recruiting agencies and the selection teams from universities and nongovernmental organizations, not to mention the larger amount required to build dozens of courthouses,” Supreme Court spokesman Hatta Ali told the Jakarta Globe.
Even if the budget was met, he was not sure that there would be enough candidates to fill the new posts.
“So far, we have recruited only 27 judges for the district antigraft courts out of the 68 we need at this very early stage.”
Only a few candidates applied in the first place, and only a small percentage of them met all the job requirements, Hatta said.
“I’m talking about having antigraft courts in provincial capitals alone. The challenges ahead will be much bigger when we have to build such courts in all districts.”
The ambitious plan stems from September’s passage of the Anti-Corruption Court Law, which, among other things, requires the establishment of antigraft courts in each of the country’s 33 provinces.
At the initial stage, new courts will be built in provincial capitals Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya, Medan, Makassar, Palembang, and Samarinda. By the end of 2011, capitals of all 33 provinces are expected to have a court before the government expands the project to all districts and mayoralties.
“We also need additional budget for the judges’ salaries. The basic salary of an antigraft court judge is Rp 10 million per month at the district level, Rp 12 million at the appeal court and Rp 14 million at the Supreme Court,” Hatta said.
Speaking separately, Supreme Court Secretary Rum Nessa said the court had proposed a budget of Rp 400 billion to the Ministry of Finance to build new antigraft courthouses and recruit new judges.
If agreed, the construction will commence not only in the seven cities but also in 10 more cities, Rum said.
“We hope the construction of courthouses and recruitment of judges can start in 17 cities this year, so we can think about the rest next year,” Rum said, adding that the Supreme Court expected that at least half of the proposed budget could be obtained immediately.
The creation of anticorruption courts across the country has been heavily criticized because it meant the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) could no longer prosecute its cases in one special court in Jakarta, where it has had a 100 percent conviction rate, jailing many high-profile defendants. The current Anti-Corruption Court is under the umbrella of the Central Jakarta District Court and has the entire nation as its jurisdiction.