Although corruption is a global phenomenon, it has become a serious problem and habitual action in Indonesia’s public sectors, pervading all levels of Indonesian society (Newman, 2011). In fact Indonesia is one of the most corrupt countries worldwide. According to the 2015 Transparency International Perception Index, Indonesia was ranked 88 out of 167, indicating that how corrupt public sector in this country is perceived. Although Indonesia has introduced a set of policy initiatives, such as whistleblowing mechanisms or public interest disclosure, to combat corruption, corrupt practices in public sectors persist. Thus, further policy reforms are needed. This essay firstly defines whistleblowing and whistleblower. Secondly, it identifies current policies related to whistleblowing or public interest disclosure in Indonesia, and tries to identify challenges of them. Finally, it proposes further reforms, and discusses how the proposed policy settings will bring better results for Indonesia in combating corruption, particularly in public sectors.
Definition of whistleblowing and whistleblower
There are various definitions of whistleblowing, but the commonly used and accepted definition is disclosure by members of organization, either former or current, of illegal, immoral or illegitimate practices under the control of their employers to people or organizations that might be able to effect action (Near & Miceli 1985, p.4). Internal and external channels are the most frequent and well known options used by both public and private institutions in disclosing public interests. However, whistleblowing channels are not limited to these two typologies. Whistleblowing can involve formal, informal, anonymous and identified channels (Park et al. 2008, p.930). The most important component of whistleblowing system is whistleblowers, the people who blow the whistle. Without them, any whistleblowing system will not work and achieve its objectives. Thus, an effective whistleblowing mechanism requires active participation of whistleblower (Near et al., 1993).
Whistleblowing and whistleblower in Indonesia
Whistleblowing in Indonesia comes under the authority of Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) (Corruption Eradication Commission), which was established in 2003 with the vision to become an anti-corruption drive institution of integrity, effective and efficient. KPK is a key institution and place for a whistle-blower to report corruption practices. According to KPK (2002), a whistle blower is a person who report any potential corruption practices that occurred within the organisation in which he/she works, and he/she has access to sufficient information on the indication of such corruption.
Challenges hindered the prospect of Indonesia’s whistleblowing system
The absence of specific or direct whistle blower protection law is the main factor that hinders the effectiveness of Indonesia’s whistleblowing system to detect, prevent, and combat corruption. Without such a legal protection, the whistle blowers, particularly internal whistle blowers, are unlikely to disclose any wrongdoing they encounter in their workplace. The common reason behind this is because they are afraid of being retaliated by officials who often have powerful position to make retaliatory actions (Cortina & Magley, 2003). Although whistle blowers’ identity are protected under the 2006 Witness and Victim Protection Law, the oversight body for witness and victim protection formed under the law is not effective in delivering its duties. This is partly because the agency is underfunded in maintaining protection under the law (Wolfe et al. 2014), and the independency of the agency is often questioned since appointees in the agency are not independent from political involvement (AHRC, 2010). Moreover, the coverage and scope of the Witness and Victim Protection Law is too broad, leading to different interpretations and uncertainty.
Another factor that undermines the effectiveness of whistleblowing mechanism in Indonesia is overlap between regulations. For instance, the presence of the 2008 defamation law has opened to manipulation by those who have political or financial power to report back allegations of corruption, fraud, or misconduct made against them, turning disclosures by whistle blowers into criminals (HRW, 2010). The case of Khairiansyah Salman, a former auditor of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), is a good example. He was criminalized and became a victim after reporting the results of his investigation that found rampant corruption within the General Election Commission (KPU) that administered legislative and presidential elections in 2004 (The Jakarta Post 19 October, 2012). Another example is the overlap between the government regulation number 42/2004 (PP No.42 Tahun 2004) and the Indonesian Law Number 5 Year 2014 (UU No. 5 Tahun 2014). Under PP No.42/2004 about the ethical conduct of Indonesia’s public sectors, public servants are obliged to support and implement policies taken by their superiors (stipulated in article 9 of the regulation). This regulation contradicts with the Indonesian Law Number 5 Year 2014 that requires public servants to hold the principle of public integrity which involves neutrality, accountability, professionality, openness, and so on. In upholding this principle, public officials have to be independent from any political pressure, and required to defend legality and due process, which is critical to the public interest (Mulgan 2008, p.350). This contradicting regulations reduces the incentive to disclose corrupt conducts in public sectors.
If the objective of the provision of whistleblowing system is to detect, prevent and combat corruption, then Indonesia must break down barriers for whistle blowers to report and disclose any misconduct, fraud and corruption within their organizations. One way to break down the barriers is providing a comprehensive and stand-alone whistle blower protection, which is absent in Indonesia. Translating whistleblower protection into regulation could legitimize and construct the disclosure mechanisms for informers and protect them against retaliations. It, if well implemented, will improve the visibility and makes its promotion easier for government and minimizing legal uncertainty and vagueness. According to OECD (2012), most developed countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with comprehensive legal systems have adopted a single disclosure regime for both private and public sector whistle blower protection.
In addition, this comprehensive whistle blower protection mechanisms should include both external and internal disclosure channels (e.g. ombudsman, police, anti-corruption agencies) which are independent from interventions, incentivizing potential internal whistle blowers to report. It is essential for corruption eradication effort to encourage reporting from internal whistleblowers as they have access and up-to-date information regarding their workplace daily practices, and they are usually the first who know and recognize wrongdoings (Winardi, 2013). Generally, public servants who want to report any misconduct are encouraged to use internal channel, while external reporting channel is only used as the last option. Since the independency of internal channels is often in question and trustworthy internal channel is often not in place, the whistle blower protection law should enable internal whistle blowers to disclose any wrongdoing directly to external channels without legal consequences against them. When this mechanism is chosen, anonymity is required to protect the whistle blowers (Dusseyer et al. 2011, p.440).
The absence of proper investigation over reports that have been made may hinder the effectivity of the stand-alone whistle blower protection system. It is critical then to ensure that once misconducts are reported proper investigations are carried out and follow-up on reports should be available for the reporters to make sure whether or not the reports are responded and investigated (OECD, 2012). Failure to satisfy such conditions may discourage reporting. To avoid ambiguous interpretation, the clarity of the scope of disclosures must be clearly defined in the whistle blower protection law. Too much prescriptive makes it difficult to disclose, while too relaxed allows for infinite disclosures, discouraging internal resolution within the organization (OECD, 2011).
To reduce the risk of retaliatory actions made against the whistle blowers, broad protection of the whistleblower’s employment position should be provided, including against discriminating dismissal, direct or indirect corrective action, unfair professional promotion, discriminating remuneration, training, assignments, and contract renewal. This means that all possible retaliatory actions should be captured and clearly defined to ensure precision and broad protection for whistleblowers (OECD, 2012). In this respect, whistle blower protection law should include protection on the confidentiality of the whistle blowers’ identity and provide sanctions for disclosing the identity of the whistleblower. The provision of sanctions will strengthen the whistle blower protection, encouraging reporting.
Corruption in Indonesia’s public sectors is a wicked problem, which is complex and difficult to solve. However, this does not mean that Indonesia has to be pessimistic and do nothing. The introduction of a comprehensive and standalone whistle blower protection law, if well implemented, will increase the effectiveness of whistleblowing mechanism, and encourage whistleblower to disclose any corrupt conduct. This in turn will help Indonesia to effectively detect, prevent, and combat corruption, optimizing national efforts to deal with such a serious problem.
AHRC, see Asian Human Right Commission
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Dusseyer, I, Mumford, S and Sullivan G, 2011, ‘Reporting corrupt practices in the public interest: Innovative approaches to whistleblowing’ Ch. 23 in A Graycar and R G Smith (eds), Handbook of global research and practice in corruption, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp. 429-62.
HRW, see Human Rights Watch
HRW 2010, ‘Turning Critics into criminals: The human rights consequences of criminal defamation law in Indonesia, Human Rights Watch, no. 1-56432-624-1, viewed 28 May 2016, <https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/indonesia0510webwcover.pdf >.
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OECD, see the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
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Peraturan Pemerintah Republik Indonesia Nomor 42 Tahun 2004 tentang Pembinaan Jiwa Korps dan Kode Etik Pegawai Negeri Sipil
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Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 5 Tahun 2014 tentang Aparatur Sipil Negara
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