Minister throws weight behind Ahok

Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama (center) talks to reporters after meeting with Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo in Jakarta.

JAKARTA - Despite the Jakarta City Council accusing the city administration of falsehood, the Home Ministry has reaffirmed that the draft 2015 budget submitted by the administration is legal and that the ministry would approve it.

Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama cancelled his entire official morning schedule on Wednesday and visited Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo in his office in Central Jakarta to clear the air.

Ahok was accompanied by Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, as well as by all echelon I and II officials.

Tjahjo asserted that the budget draft submitted by Ahok was legal and that the ministry had completed its evaluation of it.

"We've decided that the mechanism in the budget submission is correct. The city administration submitted the draft e-budget that was already approved by the City Council," Tjahjo said during the meeting.

He went on to say that the ministry was set to sign and return the draft budget to the city by March 8.

"We've completed evaluation of the draft 2015 budget and generally we see no irregularities. We hope to sign and return the draft budget by March 8," said the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician, adding that the ministry gave its full support for the electronic budgeting system.

The Home Ministry, Tjahjo said, shared the same view as Ahok on budget transparency and efficiency and urged that the 2015 budget not be hampered by the dispute.

"For the sake of the people, I do not want the 2015 budget to be held hostage. We do not want important programs to be hampered," he said.

However, Tjahjo said that neither the City Council's right of inquiry nor Ahok's report to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) was within his jurisdiction and he would refuse to intervene.

"I respect the City Council exercising their inquiry rights and I also respect the governor's decision to report his findings to the KPK. However, this is not in the ministry's field of authority, thus we will not intervene," he said.

Last week, the councilors agreed to exercise their inquiry rights to "investigate" the 2015 budget dispute. Ahok filed a report with the KPK the following day about irregularities he found in the 2014 and 2015 city budgets.

Moreover, during the meeting, Ahok took time to apologise to the minister and his subordinates for the "embarrassing political spectacle" and asserted that he was attempting to fight for a more transparent and efficient budget.

"I apologise to the minister and all ministry officers for this very embarrassing feud […] we will continue to use the e-budgeting system for transparency and efficiency," he said.

Later in the afternoon, City Council deputy speakers Mohamad Taufik, Abraham Lunggana and Ferrial Sofyan also visited the ministry, accompanied by several commission chairpersons and faction heads. Speaker Prasetyo Edi Marsudi was absent.

According to the Home Ministry's regional finance director general, Reydonnyzar "Donny" Moenek, the ministry is scheduled on Thursday to facilitate mediation between the city administration and the City Council. Ahok and the City Council speakers are set to attend the meeting.

"As the central institution, our task is to mediate, facilitate and clarify [between the city administration and City Council]. We have heard the explanations from both sides and we respect them both. We will invite both the executive and legislative bodies to our office for mediation on Thursday. We want both parties to clarify the issues between one another," Donny said.