Indonesia’s parliament allegedly embezzles over $170M from planned national ID program

Indonesia’s notoriously corrupt parliament is embroiled in scandal after two officials were arrested for their part in skimming more than $170M from the country’s digital ID card program.

In an indictment handed down last month, the country’s Corruption Eradication Commission accused two senior home ministry officials of facilitating payouts benefiting more than 37 lawmakers and high-ranking government officers, including the Minister of Justice and the speaker of the lower house of parliament, as well as numerous other parliament members.

The case dates back to 2009, when parliament began crafting the budget for expanding its existing resident ID program (Kartu Tanda Penduduk, or KTP) to include a microchip-enabled biometric smart card. Similar to India’s massive Aadhaar program, the new e-KTP was intended to expand access to financial and government services to millions of citizens who otherwise had no means of proving legal identity.

Lawmakers from across parties allegedly conspired to drastically inflate the project’s price tag and reportedly divvied up spoils from the mark-up openly in the halls of parliament, with some officials taking up to $5.5M. The two named defendants in the Corruption Eradication Commission’s case allegedly planned to coordinate the theft and distribution 49 percent of the program’s $440 million budget.

If proven, this would represent the largest corruption case in the history of Indonesia’s parliament, which Transparency International has consistently called the country’s most corrupt institution.

The scandal has hampered e-KTP’s national rollout, causing shortages and extended delays that have prohibited many from obtaining the smart cards.

“Everything is messy now,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo told the Jakarta Post. “All because the budget for the e-ID procurement was swindled.”

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Kaelyn Lowmaster is One World Identity’s Principal Analyst. Prior to joining OWI, she worked in the Army’s International Affairs Division at the Pentagon, and coordinated Johns Hopkins’ graduate programs in Nanjing, China. Kaelyn holds an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a graduate certificate from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, and a BA from Colgate University. She is currently based in Tokyo.