Antigraft groups expressed high hopes on Thursday that the recent appointment of economist Anggito Abimanyu as director general of hajj pilgrimage management will bring much needed reform to the multi-billion dollar industry.
“[Anggito] is a more suitable figure than appointing a someone from inside the Religious Affairs Ministry,” Indonesia Corruption Watch researcher Firdaus Ilyas said.
Anggito is known for his tough stance against corruption and successfully led the country’s fiscal reform during his time as the fiscal policy chief at the Finance Ministry before resigning in 2010.
In a surprise move, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, whose administration has been marred with numerous corruption allegations, appointed the reform-minded Anggito on Tuesday.
Firdaus said he had high hopes that Anggito could increase transparency and accountability in money management.
“There are a lot of hajj funds and they can easily be misappropriated,” the ICW researcher said, but he added that Anggito must still change the lack of transparency within the ministry.
An estimated 90 percent of Indonesia’s 240 million population are Muslims. Islamic law requires those who are physically and financially able to perform the hajj at least once in their life.
Last year, Saudi Arabia established a quota of 211,000 pilgrims for Indonesia. The current number of Indonesians registered for the hajj is 1.4 million, a backlog of more than six years’ worth of pilgrimage hopefuls. Their deposits, totaling Rp 38 trillion ($4 billion) are held in ministry accounts.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) warned in February that this massive balance raised the possibility of misappropriation of bank interest, which is worth around Rp 1.7 trillion annually.
Uchok Sky Khadafi from the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) said the ministry had purchased Islamic bonds worth a total of Rp 783 billion in 2010 with an interest rate of between 7.3 percent to 7.61 percent per year.
The government recently announced plans to increase the price of the hajj pilgrimage from $3,537 per pilgrim last year to $3,715 this year.