Application of the FOI Act and Community Advocacy will Encourage Budget Absorption

December 4, 2013

puskesmas1At the end of every year, the low budget absorption by government, both at the central and local level, always features significantly in the news. At the beginning of November 2013, the Ministry of Home Affairs (Kemendagri) recorded local government budget absorption to be at only 68% on average throughout Indonesia. Whilst at the beginning of December 2013, the Ministry of Finance stated that new capital expenditure reached only 52.7% of the total allowable amount. This is particularly concerning, as capital expenditure is a form of government expenditure that has a large effect for development, because it includes infrastructure expenditure.

The low absorption of capital expenditure at the end of the year definitely interferes with the performance and quality of public services provided by the government to the community. Many infrastructure development programs are yet to be implemented and as such continue to hamper economic growth and are detrimental to society. The low absorption of capital expenditure also reduces the quality of public service received by the community in the health and education sectors.

Taking into account this phenomenon, the Centre for Regional Information and Studies (PATTIRO) contends that society can actually function as a supporter for the hastening of budget absorption, primarily with regards to capital expenditure. Law No. 14, 2008 on Public Information Openness (UU KIP) guarantees community’s right to access public information. According to Article 9 of the UU KIP, information regarding the budget and its use constitutes periodic public information that is required to be made available by public bodies at least once every six months. Furthermore, Ministry of Home Affairs Instruction No. 188.52/1797/SJ on Increasing the Transparency of Local Budget Management instructed local governments to be transparent in the planning and realization of budgets for all local working units (SKPD). Based on these two regulations, the Information and Documentation Officers (PPID) within government should periodically inform the public on the planning and realisation of budgets produced by governments, especially local governments.

In the various local and central government agencies that have already established PPIDs, information regarding budget planning and realization is already available periodically. In West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province for example, information regarding the budget is disseminated periodically by the NTB provincial PPID and can be accessed by anyone through the site www.ppidntb.net. Through this website, the NTB PPID does not just provide information on the budget, but also, other forms of periodic public information that must be provided according to the provisions of the UU KIP, in neatly systemized manner. Even if specific information cannot be found, the community has the option to make a request through the website.

If information on the budget is made available by the government, then the community can be empowered to undertake monitoring and evaluating of the budget, primarily capital expenditure. Thus, when there is capital expenditure that has not been absorbed, the community can question what has happened and how and when it will be implemented. However, the work of monitoring and evaluating budget is not an easy job. The community needs to be strengthened through a process of advocacy (educated, trained, guided, accompanied, helped and facilitated), so that it can undertake this work. The first step that must be undertaken is informing and developing awareness in the community of their right to information on public services provided by public bodies (the government).

The main work of the government, as a provider of public services, should be supported through the dissemination of information on the results of public services to the people (community). The government should be brave enough to request the community to undertake monitoring and evaluation of public services and thus support the improvement of public service performance. Because of this, the building of public awareness of the right to information should be recognized as an area of work that should be undertaken by the government.

So, who is responsible for this task of strengthening communities, such that they can carry out monitoring and evaluation, not only of the budget, but of all public services that they receive? The Ministry of Home Affairs Regulation (Permendagri) No. 19, 2007 on Training for the Empowerment of Community and the Village states in Article 5, that role of implementer for community empowerment training lies with the Ministry of Home Affairs, provincial governments, district/city governments and accredited non-government training organisations. With reference to this ministry regulation, it can be seen that the duty to provide community strengthening is the duty of the government.

However, in reality, a government process of community strengthening government is not properly underway. In many areas of Indonesia, the task of community strengthening has largely fallen to non-government organisations (NGOs) such as PATTIRO. PATTIRO has developed models and approaches for the strengthening of communities that can be adopted or further developed by the government have a greater and wider effect. The work of PATTIRO to increase the awareness of communities’ right to information, as well as its role in monitoring and evaluating public services and budget performance, has already produced many results. Examples have included the development of community awareness in Manokwari, Papua, in order for the community to make information requests so that they can receive certainty of local healthcare centre schedules, and the questioning of increases to public transportation fares by community groups in East Flores (for more information on the results of PATTIRO’s work in strengthening community capacity, see http://pattirocati.wordpress.com/).

This aforementioned strengthening of community capacity, if undertaken continually and with increasing quality, will allow the community to gradually become aware of their right to information and be capable of monitoring and evaluating the budget and public service performance. The community will therefore have a far greater knowledge of their rights in receiving public services in the form of healthcare, education and infrastructure development. If there is capital expenditure budgeted for infrastructure development or public services in the health or education sectors that has yet to be implemented, the community will have the capability to question the related agency and agitate for its swift implementation. This will encourage the greater absorption of capital expenditure budgets.

So that people are aware of their right to information and are able to carry out monitoring and evaluation of budgetary performance and public services, PATTIRO recommends that the government, especially the Ministry of Home Affairs:

  1. Encourages local governments (at both the provincial and district/city level) that have yet to establish a PPID, to do so.
  2. Encourages local governments that have already established a PPID, to appropriately arrange public information, as has been done by the NTB Provincial PPID. This means that period public information on areas such as the budget, can be disseminated in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law rules, on time and affordably, in a simple manner.
  3. Provides training for the strengthening of community capacity. So that, the community is aware of their right to information and the public services that they should receive, whilst also making them capable of monitoring and evaluating the performance of the budget, especially public services.

Sad Dian Utomo | Executive Director of PATTIRO

saddian@pattiro.org | 0812 800 3045

Contact Person:

Budi Rahardjo| Information Openness Specialist

budi@pattiro.org

2.      Agus Wibowo| CSO Strengthening Specialist

guswibowo@pattiro.org

The Centre for Regional Information and Studies (PATTIRO) is a non-profit organisation that encourages the establishment of local governance that is good, transparent and fair for the social welfare of the community. PATTIRO, established on 17 April 1999 in Jakarta, is active in advocacy and research, with a focus on the issue of local governance, especially with regard to decentralisation. For more information, please visit www.pattiro.org.

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