Saturday, May 19, 2007

Government told to review schools fund, procurement scheme

Saturday, May 05, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A research team from the Partnership for Government Reforms has asked the Education Ministry to review the School Operational Fund (BOS) and its textbook procurement scheme for elementary and secondary schools, saying both programs provide avenues for corruption.

The team, comprising experts from several organizations, found that the operational fund and text book programs, which were designed to reduce educational participation disparities, were in fact centralistic in their formulation and implementation.

The team said they also lack financial transparency and as a consequence were vulnerable to corruption.

"Even though these policies were formulated to encourage the autonomy of schools, in fact the Education Ministry plays a dominant role, relegating regional education agencies and schools to the role of operators and leaving teachers and parents with little information about these programs," Ade Irawan from Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) told reporters Friday.

Following six months of research on the BOS program conducted in 10 municipalities and cities, and involving more than 9,000 respondents, the team identified several core problems. These include inadequate funds for free basic education, a generic system of allocation that ignores the specific conditions and needs of schools and regions, mark-ups in the number of fund recipients and corruption, especially within schools.

"Among the incidents of corruption discovered were practices including the extortion of funds from schools by agencies and bribes paid by schools, as well as double bookkeeping entries," Irawan said.

The most plausible explanation for the growing practice of corruption in schools, Irawan said, is that the government has not provided sufficient funds for basic education.

"The Education Ministry usually points a finger at schools or regional education agencies if any problems occur, thus ignoring their own responsibility for the problems. They forget that the operational funds they provide are not enough for basic education.

"The government has said that it will need about Rp 16.1 trillion (US$1.7 billion) for free education in 2007, but in fact, it has only provided Rp 11.2 trillion ($1.2 billion)," Irawan said.

The team also found that many parents experienced difficulties in purchasing the mountain of expensive textbooks needed each semester, which could then not be reused.

In addition, the team said that the textbooks are determined by the regional education agencies and publishers, and that many were found to be inappropriate for public education.

The team recommended that the government comprehensively reassess the needs of every region and school and request input from teachers, parents and the public on the operational fund and textbook procurement program.

Dadang Trisasongko, an anticorruption adviser at the partnership, said that based on the results of the research, the team was developing a checklist to be used as an instrument for the public to monitor the implementation of these programs. (02)

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