TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - *The KPK should investigate those who gave orders for the bribe to be paid to a number of Bekasi Regency officials. A permit system without corruption is needed. *
The detention of the former Lippo Cikarang CEO, Bartholomeus Toto, is a new ammunition for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in investigating the bribes paid in relation to the construction of the Meikarta integrated residential complex to officials of Bekasi Regency, West Java. Although a number of senior Lippo personnel and Bekasi Regency officials have been jailed, the source of the bribery funds is still a mystery.
The head of the Lippo Cikarang land acquisition and permit division, Edi Dwi Soesianto, accused Toto of obtaining the Rp10.5 billion for Regent Neneng Hasanah Yasin and her subordinates. Toto rejected this accusation and reported Edi to the Bandung City police on November 10. Therefore, the KPK was right to detain Toto rather than allowing the two key Lippo staffers to trade accusations outside the investigation, which could disrupt the gathering of evidence.
Conversely, Toto, who resigned from Lippo because of the scandal, must be open with investigators and work with them to uncover the truth behind the bribes, including the person behind them. If he claims that he did not pay out the bribes, Toto must prove he is clean and tell investigators about the staff members that had the authority to pay out such a large amount. After all, it is not possible that the Lippo employee acted on his own in paying bribes to the regent without the knowledge of his superiors.
The Lippo bribe to Regent Neneng is a typical example of corruption in the construction business. Funded by investors from China, Lippo is currently marketing an integrated residential complex – including apartments and a mall combined with a Jakarta-Bandung fast rail link station – with an intensive advertising and promotion campaign. The company needs a land-use permit and a construction permit from Regent Neneng in order for the construction of the property worth Rp280 trillion on 508 hectares of land to go ahead.
Toto could also reveal more about the long-running bribery behind the issuing of construction permits. Witness testimony has revealed that this was not the first time bribes had been paid but was a continuation of a series of bribes that had long continued with other projects. Therefore, this organized, extensive and continuous corruption must be investigated thoroughly right to the top of the Lippo leadership in order to stop these practices occurring again.
A half-hearted investigation will only strengthen the government’s case for revoking the condition of an environmental impact analysis when granting construction permits, namely that it is complicated, expensive and is a means for local officials to put pressure on businesses, resulting in stifling of investment. The KPK must show that the corruption over permits is not because of the obligation to meet environmental conditions, but the cause of the dishonest practices of regional officials is the lack of a sophisticated system to prevent them from breaking the law.
Corrupt officials such as Regent Neneng who trade the authority to grant permits should have their actions limited by a system. For example, the processing of permits could be computerized so that officials and businesses would not have to meet when a request for a construction permit is made. An open system that could be audited by the public would limit the opportunity for the dishonest practice of buying and selling authority between investors and state officials.
The KPK, as an agency with a role in preventing corruption, should assist with the drawing up of a proper permit system, because it is the starting point for corruption to a number of sectors. The Lippo case could become a lesson learned for how to prevent corruption over permits, so the plundering by greedy state officials could be prevented.
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