- A court has sentenced the former head of the public works department in Indonesia’s Papua province to five and a half years in prison for corruption in a $5.3 million road project.
- The road between Kemiri and Depapre in Jayapura district has been damaged for years, with locals complaining that it’s dangerous to drive on.
- Mikael Kambuaya, the former provincial public works chief, was convicted of conspiring with contractor David Manibui to inflate the project cost by $2.5 million.
- David, whose company was awarded the contract despite not meeting the technical requirements, was also convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison.
JAKARTA — A court in Indonesia has convicted a former official and a contractor for their roles in a corruption case centered on a $5.3 million road project in Papua province.
The anti-corruption court on March 30 sentenced Mikael Kambuaya, the former head of the Papua provincial public works department, to five and a half years in jail, and David Manibui, whose company, PT Bintuni Energy Persada (BEP), was awarded the contract for the project, to seven years. David was also ordered to pay $2.4 million in damages to the state or face an additional one year in prison.
The pair were accused of conspiring to inflate the cost for building the 24-kilometer (15-mile) road between Kemiri and Depapre in Jayapura district. Prosecutors from the national anti-corruption commission, the KPK, alleged that their actions cost the state $2.5 million in losses, with about 15% of the total budget handed out as bribes to various government officials. BEP’s finance manager testified in court that she had been ordered to write out a check for $240,000 for a local election, but it was never established at trial who that money went to.
The Kemiri-Depapre road has been damaged for years, and locals complain that it is becoming increasingly dangerous to use.
State auditors were the first to flag irregularities in the project, noting that the budget proposed didn’t take into account the actual cost of the project based on a ground survey. KPK prosecutors said it appeared the accused sought to max out the budget. It’s common practice in Indonesia for government departments to have their annual funding reduced if they fail to spend all of their previous year’s budget. In this case, Mikael, as the provincial public works chief, appeared to be trying to ensure his department’s funding for the following year wasn’t cut, prosecutors said.
Mikael acknowledged awarding the contract to David’s company, PT Bintuni Energy Persada (BEP), but objected to the charges brought by the KPK, saying he didn’t take any money in connection with the project.
“It was [my] staff who had the intention to mark up [the budget],” he said.
But prosecutors made the case that Mikael had ordered his subordinates to award the contract to BEP, one of the 16 companies vying for it, despite BEP not meeting the technical requirements.
The sentences handed down by the court were lighter than the eight-year sentences sought by prosecutors. Both the accused and the prosecutors have an opportunity to appeal.
Corruption in infrastructure projects is common in Indonesia, said Wana Alamsyah from the NGO Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW). The group has recorded 12 separate cases of infrastructure-related graft in the Papua region in the past three years, three of which center on transportation projects.
Wana called on the KPK to build on the recent court ruling to widen its investigation into the Kemiri-Depapre road project, including identifying other officials who may have taken bribes.
“There are some graft cases where the case ends after a department head is convicted,” he told Mongabay. “But as we all know, the department head doesn’t act alone. The judges and the prosecutors should dig out more information from the witnesses so that all involved parties can be nabbed.”
Law enforcers also need to follow up on the $240,000 check written by BEP for the local election, Wana added, including identifying the recipient. He said the KPK should work with the PPATK, the government’s anti-money-laundering watchdog, to trace the flow of the funds.