Indonesia and the Partnership for Governance Reform

By very good chance, the Partnership for Governance Reform was just starting in Indonesia at the time that I left Chemonics, and I was able to get involved with it as its Adviser on NGOs and Anti-corruption. This deepened and encouraged my interest in corruption and anti-corruption which had been kindled in the work that I had done for Transparency International in 1996 – designing a training manual for their country chapters and then training them to use it.

The Partnership convened a group of very committed Indonesians and foreigners in the aftermath of Suharto’s collapse who wanted to make sure that Indonesia never fell back into the autocratic and corrupt ways of the last 20 years. Tremendous changes were taking place – new political parties being started, Parliament becoming an active body after years as a rubber stamp, secrecy and a control of information being phased out, and many new ideas being promoted.

Unfortunately the entrenched Indonesian habit of corruption had not changed: while there were many people who felt that part of the new dispensation that had come with the fall of Suharto should involve a lessening of corruption, the actual practices of the majority of Indonesians involved an often unhappy acceptance of petty corruption with many people having little idea how society could function without such practices. It was much easier to get consensus on the need to limit excessive and outrageous corruption scandals than it was to limit lesser or petty corruption, because so many people were complicit in it, and, as many said, the government could not function with out it.

My work at the Partnership involved trying to get a national debate about the importance of reducing corruption and supporting CSOs which seemed to have a role in doing this. An important aspect of the work was to bring people to realise the importance of corruption, not just in the way that it held the country back from inward investment or increased elite accumulation of wealth, but in the way it affected ordinary citizens who could not get, for instance, medical treatment, or school places without payments that they could not afford. Part of this was documenting real life stories, and part of it was a substantial survey of attitudes towards corruption. A limiting aspect of all these efforts was that Indonesians would not be fazed by the results, saying, gloomily, that they knew this was the case.

At the time I worked with the Partnership there was considerable scepticism that the Government of Indonesia was serious about controlling corruption, and there were many examples of corruption being institutionalised into the way the government functioned (e.g. MPs being bribed by the government to pass laws that the government considered important). Subsequently the Anti-corruption Commission has shown its power and has prosecuted “big fish”, but at the time i was there this was still in the future.

One noteworthy attempt by the Partnership was to design and administer an annual governance survey which could be repeated annually and thus show progress (or otherwise) in the governance of the country. The design of the factors that needed to be included in a survey of governance was most interesting and I was very glad to be part of that process.

This job also gave me the opportunity to attend the bi-annual International Anti-Corruption Conferences (IACC), managed by Transparency International where I usually had the role of explaining the singular role that CSOs had in combating corruption – this in a context where most attention was directed towards state run Anti-Corruption Commissions – which usually proved to be unhelpful.

 

Accomplishments

  • Managing a national polling survey of attitudes towards corruption
  • Managing a series of provincial workshops to ascertain attitudes towards corruption and what could be done
  • Producing case stories of how corruption affects peoples lives
  • Producing the first annual governance survey of Indonesia.

 

Documents

Indonesian NGOs and Corruption
by Richard Holloway for the IACC, Prague 2001

Stealing from the people – 16 studies 8 in 4 volumes) of corruption in Indonesia
Editor of the English version: Aksara Foundation. 2001

Participatory Corruption Appraisal – a methodology for researching the impact of corruption on the urban poor
co-authored with Stephanie Teggeman

Breaking the barriers of systemic corruption
by Richard Holloway, partnership 2002

 

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