Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Ezra Sihite
A transparency activist group has accused a House of Representatives deputy speaker of shamelessness over his reintroduction of a monthly housing allowance for legislators as a substitute for their official residences.
Uchok Sky Khadafi, coordinator of the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra), said lawmakers did not appreciate the largesse that came with their positions. Ordinary taxpayers, he noted, pay for the lawmakers’ perks and get so no such luxuries themselves.
Uchok said that the cost of maintaining the residences is Rp 76 billion ($8.36 million) a year, while the housing allowance had cost the state budget Rp 100 billion a year when it was last used, in 2010.
“It’s a shameless decision. The state has given lawmakers luxury facilities but they rejected them. This makes the lawmakers look ungrateful,” Uchok said on Saturday.
He said it was embarrassing because the housing allowance was merely a product of lawmakers’ desire to increase their monthly income from state coffers.
Lawmakers stopped receiving housing allowances after renovations to official residences for House members in Kalibata, South Jakarta, were completed last year.
“If the official residences are maintained, the state only has to allocate a budget of Rp 76 billion [for housing maintenance]. Housing allowances for members will cost up to Rp 99 billion per year,” he said.
House Deputy Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso earlier said that lawmakers would return their official residences to the state.
“Because the existence of official residences became a controversy, we decided to return them to the state,” Priyo said on Friday.
Lawmakers consider it more cost-effective to rent houses, often leaving official residences abandoned despite the large sums of money spent on their maintenance. “A house allowance would be more effective,” Priyo said.
Fitra data showed that the Rp 76 billion budget allocated for the maintenance of official residences for lawmakers this year is more than double last year’s budget of Rp 33 billion.
Lawmakers received a housing allowance of Rp 15 million per month in 2010, for a combined total of Rp 99.9 billion for the year, when the official residences in Kalibata were being renovated.
Official residences for lawmakers are also located at Meruya in West Jakarta.
The renovation in Kalibata came under public scrutiny because the budget was believed to be marked up and corrupted.
The project was initially set for completion in 2008, but wasn’t finished until the end of 2010. Its total cost was Rp 479 billion.
Some NGOs criticized the project because the tender winner, Pembangunan Perumahan, sub-contracted it at least twice.
The Rp 612 million renovation cost per unit was also considered steep; with a price of Rp 152 million per unit closer to industry standard.