Lawmakers Knew of Bird Flu Vaccine Plant Irregularities
Markus Junianto Sihaloho
The House of Representatives reportedly had first-hand knowledge about the irregularities surrounding the construction of a bird flu vaccine plant, a House document suggests.
The document, obtained by the Jakarta Globe, contains records from a closed-door meeting between the Health Ministry and House Commission IX, which oversees health affairs, in April 2010. The document was signed by Commission IX deputy chairman Irgan Chairul Mahfiz.
The Health Ministry proposed a Rp 490 billion ($52.4 million) budget for an advance-education program to tackle the bird flu epidemic, but the budget somehow got redirected into the building of the plant, which is located at Airlangga University. The budget also soared to Rp 1.04 trillion, the dossier suggests.
“Commission IX approves the reallocation of the budget … from the Professions and Expertise Education Program to Building a Research Facility and Production of Bird Flu Vaccines,” the document states.
While the dossier did not mention which lawmaker supported the changes, it did note those who opposed it.
The document states that Mamat Rahayu Abdullah from the Golkar Party questioned how the construction program was supposed to help Indonesia’s battle against the bird flu.
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Rieke Dyah Pitaloka was quoted in the document as saying that Indonesia had more than enough vaccines to counter an outbreak, adding that construction was not needed.
The only proponent detailed by the dossier came from Democratic Party lawmaker Zulmiar Yanri.
A document, dated March 14, suggests that the Finance Ministry was still earmarking money for the project, ignoring a warning from the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), which found more than Rp 600 billion in potential state losses in the deal.
Irgan confirmed that the Health Ministry’s budget was redirected to the construction project but refused to say why.
Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo also refused to comment about the document.
“I want to focus on this first,” he said before attending a meeting with the House Budget Committee.
Construction of the factory was done by Anugrah Nusantara, of which former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin was part-owner.
He is now in jail for rigging the tender for a different government construction project.
Nazaruddin is also being investigated for irregularities in the bidding process of three other construction projects.
Health Minister Nafsiah Mboy admitted last month that the graft convict’s company violated its contract.