Auditing Papua’s special autonomy fund

Auditing Papua’s special autonomy fund
The Jakarta Post, 16 September 2010

By: Neles Tebay, Abepura, Papua


President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government has taken the initiative to conduct an audit of the special autonomy fund in the provinces of Papua and West Papua in 2011.

The initiative shows that the central government is committed to examining how the local governments in the two provinces have spent billions of rupiah under the special autonomy package.

The government wants to learn whether the huge amount has been used properly or misused by local governments in the western half of the island of New Guinea.

The government has taken the above initiative because the reality on the ground has shown that many indigenous Papuans are still living under the poverty line.

This means the huge amount of money spent on the region since 2001 has not been able to improve the level of prosperity of these people.

The government initiative should be supported by all parties, both in Jakarta and Papua.

This support is required to promote the proper use of development funds to improving people’s welfare not only in Papua and West Papua provinces but also in the other Indonesian provinces.

However, despite its importance, the government initiative to audit the fund raises several disturbing questions, at least among Papuans.

Has the government ever conducted an audit of the spending of the Papua autonomy fund since 2001? If so, how many times did the government carry out such an audit?

Which institution was assigned to conduct the audit? What were the results of the audit? These questions should be addressed by the government to gain public support.

If the central government never audited the Papua autonomy fund, it should explain why not. The government must address several other disturbing questions:

• Why has it continued to provide huge sums of money every year to the governments of Papua and
West Papua provinces without conducting an audit of the spending of these funds?

• Does this mean the government is deliberately letting Papua’s local administrations decide how to spend autonomy funds in accordance with the interests of each governor and regent?

• Does it mean the government is ignoring the need to audit the fund?

• Or, does it mean the government is preoccupied with other pressing issues in Jakarta and therefore Papua is outside its focus?

It is important for the government to address the above questions to gain wider support from the
public, at least in Papua and West Papua provinces.

The government needs to be reminded that Papuans have not put their trust in the government initiative to audit the spending of the autonomy fund.

Papuans simply doubt that the government plan will result in a positive outcome for the region.

Their doubts are based on past experiences where the government was unable to fulfill all of its promises.

There is a strong suspicion that the initiative was publicly announced in efforts to show that the government is responsive to the political crisis taking place in Papua.

“The government’s failure to eradicate corruption will, in turn, encourage more Papuans to raise the call for a referendum.”

This means that if the political atmosphere cools in the region, the government will simply ignore or cancel its plan to audit the fund.

The above questions and doubts constitute a challenge for the government, to demonstrate its commitment to promote the proper use of funding for development.

In conducting its audit plan, the government needs to take four factors into consideration.

First, it should examine the mechanisms and regulations on the transfer of funds from Jakarta to the government of Papua and West Papua provinces, to learn to what extent and what process and stages of money disbursement have been helpful in facilitating development activities in the two provinces.

Second, it is equally important to audit the use of the autonomy fund. A critical analysis of mechanisms of distribution of the fund between the provincial governments and the administrations of regencies is also desperately needed.

It is also necessary for the central government to examine whether the use of autonomy fund was clearly indicated in local government annual budget plans (RAPBD) of each province and regency.

Third, rewards need to be given to government officials who have spent autonomy funds in accordance with governmental regulations.

These rewards will serve as a form of public recognition and at the same time encourage continued spending of the autonomy fund in proper ways.

Fourth, the government should take firm actions against officials found to have misused the fund. Papuans will not defend any corrupt officials.

Instead, they will begin to trust the government for demonstrating its commitment to eradicate corruption in Papua.

Otherwise, the government will be seen as protector of corrupt officials in Papua.

And the government’s failure to eradicate corruption will, in turn, encourage more Papuans to raise the call for a referendum.

The writer is lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua.