Koran Bribery Scandal Seen as Chance to Expose More Ministry Graft
The ongoing probe into a Rp 35 billion ($3.7 million) graft case linked to the procurement of Korans at the Religious Affairs Ministry could uncover more corruption cases there, antigraft watchdogs say.
“Hopefully the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission] hasn’t forgotten about corruption [allegations] surrounding the hajj pilgrimage,” Firdaus Ilyas of Indonesia Corruption Watch said on Saturday, referring to the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. “The Koran case could be a way in to expose bigger corruption.”
Last week, the KPK charged Golkar Party legislator Zulkarnaen Djabar and a businessman identified only as D.P. with two graft cases related to the Koran procurement. In the first case, Zulkarnaen was believed to have received a bribe for approving the budget. The second case concerns corruption during the procurement process.
ICW researcher Ade Irawan said that since 2009, his group had also been pushing for the KPK to investigate irregularities linked to the annual hajj pilgrimage fund and management, both managed exclusively by the ministry.
“Corruption surrounding the hajj has many forms and involves top officials at the ministry and the House of Representatives,” Ade said.
Saudi Arabia established a quota of 211,000 pilgrims for Indonesia last year. The current number of Indonesians registered for the hajj is 1.4 million, a backlog of more than six years’ worth of pilgrimage hopefuls. Their deposits, totaling Rp 38 trillion, are held in ministry accounts.
The KPK warned in February that this massive balance raised the possibility of misappropriation of bank interest, which is worth around Rp 1.7 trillion annually.
The government has announced plans to raise the price of the pilgrimage from $3,537 per pilgrim last year to $3,715.
Uchok Sky Khadafi, from the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra), said the ministry had enjoyed billions of rupiah from the interest on deposits alone.