February 18, 2009
Nivell Rayda & Dessy Sagita
Health Ministry Staffers Paint Picture Of Long-Entrenched Graft, Deception
Health Ministry staff said on Tuesday that they were not surprised to hear the
Corruption Eradication Commission had started an investigation into allegations
of graft at the ministry.
"Everybody knows that prices for medical equipment are marked up," said a
ministry staff member speaking on condition of anonymity. "The other day I saw
a report from the ministry. I was surprised to find they reported a medical
chair costing Rp 145 million [$12,200]. It's only Rp 25 million on the market."
Markups like that are common, the source said.
Corruption was first alleged by the country's leading antigraft body, Indonesia
Corruption Watch, which last year told the commission that since 1998 a total
of Rp 128 billion of the ministry's budget had been embezzled.
The group based its report on discrepancies found by the Center for Public
Health Policy Studies, an independent NGO, in several of the ministry's
The center found a difference of Rp 14.8 billion between the budget reported to
the president and the actual money spent on a project to handle malnutrition in
several provinces in 2005. It also found irregularities in financial reports
for handling an avian influenza outbreak in 2006 and the provision of portable
X-ray machines for hospitals in remote and underdeveloped areas in 2007.
alleged billed price of a Rp 25m chair
The case that the commission agreed to investigate centers on X-ray machines
estimated to have cost the state Rp 4.8 billion. The commission has disclosed
that one official referred to only as "M" is a suspect.
Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told reporters on Tuesday that as far as
she was concerned there could have not been any irregularities in the
ministry's procurement projects.
"We have a good system that leaves little room for corruption and we disclose
all of our documents for auditing," the minister said. However, she also said
there were hundreds of ministry tenders that she did not oversee.
"I couldn't have checked each and every one. I have an inspector general to do
that," she said in reference to Faiq Bahfen, a ministry official. "The KPK
should ask him, not me."
Another ministry staff member, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said
many losses to the state were not reflected in obvious discrepancies in the
audits. High-tech equipment such as CAT scans, for example, were bought but not
all hospitals had people to operate them, the source said.
"Ministry officials are given kickbacks from the importers, so we are buying a
lot of things that we don't need," the staffer said.
Another source said smaller-scale health sector corruption was also prevalent
among doctors at state-run hospitals.
"Doctors sometimes keep free medicine that was intended for underprivileged
people, both for themselves and to sell to pharmaceutical companies and
pharmacies," the source said, adding that patients also give kickbacks to
doctors, especially when it comes to the state health insurance, or Askes, that
covers treatment only in state-run hospitals.
"In order for their treatment to be covered by Askes, doctors manipulate their
reports to reflect covered services," the source said. "You can ask the doctors
to report your plastic surgery to the insurance company as cancer removal."