Civil servants who misuse or embezzle travel expenses should be severely sanctioned, Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said.
His announcement came on the heels of a Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) investigation into finances of the central government and regional administrations across Indonesia that discovered irregularities on overseas and domestic trips. Those irregularities totaled more than Rp 77 billion ($8 million) in the first six months of this year.
“In relation to the BPK finding on business trips run by ministries and [public] institutions, it is expected that sanctions be given and the expenses not in line with regulations be returned to state coffers,” the minister said.
He added that agencies should be more selective in approving trip proposals and refuse to rubber-stamp those that didn’t seem absolutely necessary. The excess money, he said, could be redirected to more pressing projects, such as infrastructure development.
Agus said that after meeting with the House of Representatives, the government has agreed to decrease its travel budget in next year’s State Budget Plan.
The government earlier proposed a total of Rp 24 trillion for business trips throughout next year, but Agus said the number was recently slashed to Rp 19.7 trillion, the same amount spent on trips in 2010. The House, he said, had suggested that the figure be reduced another 10 percent to 15 percent.
Agus said the government is studying the proposal to determine the exact needs of the central and regional governments. The minister added that the government will submit its revised figure to the House on Tuesday.
“We don’t want [next year’s budget] to be the same as what happened in 2011, when the budget was slashed down midway through the year,” he said, adding that it caused a major administrative headache.
The House itself has been criticized for overspending. With just 560 lawmakers, the House has earmarked a total travel budget of Rp 112 billion this year. But lawmakers insisted that it was the government that was allowing excessive trips, and refused to lower their trip budget unless the government followed suit.
“If the spirit is efficiency and saving, then let’s do it together,” said Puan Maharani, the House faction chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
This year’s budget enables each lawmaker to take Rp 200 million worth of business trips each, enough for 20 round trips from Jakarta to Amsterdam. In contrast, Indonesia has around 4.7 million civil servants spread across ministries, agencies and regional administrations, which means that each official only has a business trip budget of Rp 4.19 million annually.
House speaker Marzuki Alie said the House has cut back on trips, particularly those overseas, unless they relate to the deliberation of bills. “We don’t make any more trips related to supervisory. People can reap the benefits [of our trips] with the laws that we pass,” he said.