by Jennie S. Bev
Integrity is a rarity in Indonesia, which explains why it’s ranked the 111th in the corruption perception ranking according to Transparency International.
While many kinds of efforts have been undertaken to prevent and eradicate corruption, appropriate workable solutions haven’t been found.
Interestingly, other countries, such as Angola, Latvia, Kosovo, Nicaragua and Haiti have been able to collect state revenues in an efficient and proper manner.
The key is outsourcing integrity, when other methods have been exhausted.
First things first, there are three types of corruption: bribery, extortion and nepotism. All these result in considerably lowered state revenues.
In Corruption: Its Nature, Causes and Function, Prof. Syed Hussein Alatas stated the functions of corruption: transactive to win business, extortive as threatening harm, defensive to avoid harm to self or family, investive as a way to look for future rewards and nepotistic that favors family or friends.
In short, any behavior abusing public trust for private gain is a form of corruption.
In Indonesia where corruption has reached its highest level, as posited by Alatas in The Sociology of Corruption, the internalization of forms of corruption have destroyed more than trust, failing the society entirely.
When acts of corruption have been accepted as normalcy, corruption has become a culture. Naturally, containing, preventing, and eradicating corrupt acts would eventually show futility.
For this, workable interventions are required. We can combine external and internal interventions.
Now, let’s talk about external intervention. Angola, which is currently ranked the 162th in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, has outsourced its customs collections to Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations. After a few years of using this British nonprofit’s services in collection, their tariff revenues have tripled.
In 1904, the president of the Dominican Republic, Carlos Felipe Morales Languasco, collaborated with the US government in managing the country’s customs.
The US team set the country’s tariff rates and collection regulations. This showed that outsourcing collection and tax management to other countries was not something new and enigmatic.
Such success stories are replicable in Indonesia, as most obstacles are likely attitudinal. If we are serious about containing, preventing and eradicating corrupt acts in Indonesia, we should consider this bureaucratic reform option.
According to Stanford Hoover Institute Fellow Kris James Mitchener and Harvard Business School professor Noel Maurer, the three advantages of outsourcing tax collections are: power reduction in public officials, increasing resources available in government posts and transparency and professionalism in managing collection reforms.
Outsourced professionals are highly paid and highly trained in the field, thus they are more likely to adhere to institutional standards in getting a job done.
The Dominican Republic asked for the assistance of the US government, while Angola uses the services of a private UK institution named The Crown Agents. Both come with pros and cons.
The most obvious disadvantage of utilizing the assistance of a foreign government is in the matter of national confidentiality and other political interests.
The most obvious advantage of using the services of an independent institution is its independence, impartiality and professionalism.
Political, cultural and educational interventions are necessary at this point, in addition to legal reform. While the decision to outsource is in the hands of policy makers, we have the power to influence them through engaging in ongoing pressing lobbies.
At the grassroot level, communicating an awareness of acts of corruption should be done early on, which should begin from childhood. After all, young generations with strong, good characters are key to future integrity.
Mochtar Lubis once said a cultural transformation is imperative in eradicating corruption, which can be done with internalization of cultural values distinguishing private and public matters, separating private and public belongings, and detaching familial solidarity from public solidarity.
The result expected is heightened awareness on what constitutes corrupt acts and why cultivating integrity is the most dignified thing to do. When we don’t have much trust left in the Indonesian government, we can invite impartial third parties from overseas.
When we are fed up with a culture of corruption, we can transform it into a culture of anticorruption. A concoction of external and internal interruptions might as well be what Indonesia needs in fighting corruption.
The Jakarta Post, August 10, 2010