Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry on Friday denied a claim by an NGO that it lost or misappropriated 7.1 trillion rupiah ($731 million) in 2012, reports the Jakarta Globe.
Earlier in the week, the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) said the ministry had incurred massive losses for the state. Its conclusion was based on figures from the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), an anti-corruption ministry.
The claim implied that the Ministry of Forestry accounted for 86 percent of the 8.3 trillion rupiah in state losses nationwide during 2012.
Uchok Sky Khadafi, Fitra’s director for investigations and advocacy, said the massive losses illustrated the problem with granting top-level ministry positions to political constituents.
“Party-affiliated ministers are incredibly lousy in their financial management, as can be seen in these indications of state losses,” Uchok was quoted as saying. “It just goes to prove that they’re neither serious nor competent when it comes to managing state funds.”
However the Ministry of Forestry refuted the report, arguing that both the figures and the characterization of the “losses” were inaccurate. Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the actual figure was 6.2 trillion rupiah and represented non-tax revenue that the ministry has been unable to collect since 2002.
“We’re continuing to collect on those payments, both at the regional level and at the central level, and to date we’ve whittled down the outstanding amount to just Rp 2.1 trillion,” Zulkifli told the Jakarta Globe.
Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring, whose ministry was charged with losing 174 billion rupiah, said the audit data didn’t represent what Fitra asserted.
“You can’t draw a conclusion like that from the BPK audit,” he was quoted as saying. “These audits are conducted every year, but it doesn’t mean that losses are occurring all the time. For instance, in 2011 the figure was even larger, but we managed to explain it to the BPK and everything was duly resolved.”
Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry has long been criticized for its financial management. A 2010 study found that Indonesia’s Reforestation Fund squandered billions of dollars between the late 1980’s and late 2000’s. Money that was set aside to replant logged areas was instead used to prop up a failed car project.
In 2011, an official at Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), called the forestry sector in Indonesia “a source of unlimited corruption.”
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