From The Jakarta Post

Lawmakers doubt promise to improve immigration service

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Justice and Human Rights Minister's promise to improve the Directorate for Immigration's notoriously poor service record failed to impress House of Representatives legislators on Monday.

Speaking to the House Commission III for law and legislation, Minister Hamid Awaluddin was criticized by lawmakers for refusing to take stern measures against corrupt immigration officials.

They also told him the directorate and its offices should be separated from the ministry to make it more independent.

Legislator Patrialis Akbar of the National Mandate Party said the ministry had still to convince him and other legislators about its commitment to the reforms President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had requested.

Fellow legislator Nursyahbani Katjasungkana said she was concerned about the minister's unwillingness to make the directorate an independent body.

"What's wrong with that (independence)?" she asked, adding that the ministry was treating the directorate like a "cash cow".

Hamid also faced many questions about his reluctance to root out corrupt officials in the department.

Responding to the questions, Hamid said he did not believe tough measures would improve immigration offices' performance. It would be better to focus on improving officials' welfare and to restructure the office, he said.

"It would be very hard for us to impose sanctions on them because we know that their salaries are very low," he said.

Hamid acknowledged that officials suspected of corruption were often just transferred to other posts.

He said he was not sure that separating the directorate from the ministry would make it perform better. Services at the Drug and Food Monitoring Agency (BPOM) did not improve after it was separated from the Health Ministry, he said.

"More problems arose after the BPOM was separated from the ministry, and we don't want this to happen to the immigration office."

Patrialis said the government urgently needed to restructure immigration offices and reshuffle their management to improve services.

"Immigration offices have always been associated with corruption. Re-organization alone is not sufficient to improve these offices' performance," Patrialis asserted.

Yudhoyono, embarrassed by reports by foreign businesspeople of corruption in immigration offices here, has ordered Hamid to clean up the service.
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