Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Ivan Dasa Saputra
The Health Ministry is under fire for allocating Rp 1.8 billion ($190,000) to kill cockroaches and flies in its own offices, with one lawmaker wondering aloud whether the ministry staff is aware of proper sanitary habits.
Poempida Hidayatullah, a member of House of Representatives Commission IX, overseeing financial affairs, said that he had no strident objections to the plan, but still found it curious that the Health Ministry would allocate funds for it.
He added that one obvious key to a pest-free environment was preventative cleaning.
“I’m not going to make a fuss about the program to extinguish flies and cockroaches,” Poempida said on the sidelines of a meeting with the Health Ministry in Jakarta on Monday. “I see the benefit that it will make the Health Ministry office more hygienic. But is this because they are filthy?
“I’m just going to think positively. Maybe the cockroaches and the flies appeared because the health program failed.”
But the $190,000 plan to kill insects wasn’t the only Health Ministry budget item that raised eyebrows on Monday.
Poempida also voiced suspicions over a plan to spend Rp 80 billion for certification for 2,500 health lecturers.
That would mean a budget expenditure of over Rp 30 million per certification, an amount the lawmaker said was absurd.
“Rp 30 million for certification training doesn’t make sense. It should only cost Rp 2 million to Rp 3 million. That amount just doesn’t make any sense,” Poempida said.
Rieke Diah Pitaloka, another member of Commission IX, added her own suspicions, singling out a vague budget request for an unnamed number of vehicles for the ministry.
“There was a budget request for a vehicle worth Rp 700 million per unit, which is still not clear yet,” Rieke said.
She also harshly criticized the ministry’s plan to allocate more money for bureaucracy than for public health services in next year’s state budget.
Rieke, a former actress turned outspoken politician, said that the ministry allocated about 49 percent of their total budget, or Rp 15.3 trillion, for public health services, and almost 51 percent, or Rp 15.8 trillion, for bureaucracy.
Out of the 51 percent allocated for bureaucracy, the ministry is allocating 22.7 percent for office maintenance and supplies and 17 percent for monitoring and evaluation activities.
“What good does it do if the state budget is used for bureaucratic needs?” Rieke said. “We should focus more of the budget on public health services.”
In response to the criticism, Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi argued that the bureaucratic expenditures included salaries for vital medical staff, such as paramedics.
“This doesn’t mean that bureaucracy is more important, but this is for the paramedics. Who’s going to serve the public if no paramedics are available? We need many paramedics.”
Nafsiah claimed that she had reduced office costs and that most of the bureaucratic budget would be used to assist paramedics on a regional level.
“You must look at the details of the budget,” she said. “In this meeting we are talking about the macro aspects. Please discuss the micro aspects with my staff from Echelon I,” she said, referring to top-level ministry officials.
Also on Monday, the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) criticized the Rp 23 trillion allocated in next year’s draft budget for official travel expenses for ministries and government institutions.
A Fitra spokesperson said the amount was too high and prone to graft.
Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said he is continuing to evaluate the amount budgeted for official travel expenses.