DenpPost reports that 44 immigration officials are now being examined by the Anti-Corruption Board (BPK) in connection with the suspected embezzlement of Rp. 3 billion (US$294,000) by immigration officials at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport. The alleged corruption reportedly occurred between the months of October 2008 and May 2009 in the under-reporting of funds received from visa on arrival sales.
Visitors from a number of countries are allowed upon arrival in Bali to purchase a non-extendable 7-day visa for US$10 or a 30-day visa for US$25.
The head of the Airport Immigration office, Budhi Harmanto, confirmed to the Bali Post that 44 members of his office have been undergoing interrogation by the BPK since June. Harmanto said the investigation commenced after inspectors from the central headquarters of Immigration found irregularities in visa-on-arrival accounts, thought to have ocurred when immigration officials deposited the value of a 7-day visa when, in fact, the more expensive 30-day visa had been paid for and issued to an incoming tourist.
According to Beritabali.com, the corrupt practices investigative unit of the Bali police have also joined the case. Meanwhile, Bali’s Governor, Made Mangku Pastika, has called for the urgent investigation and disposition of the cases. Speaking to the press on July 7, 2009, after a telephone conference with President Yudhoyono, Pastika said, “clearly, we hope definite legal action will be taken on this suspected case of corruption.”
Tourism Sector Responds
Tourism leaders in Bali have called on the Bali airport’s immigration office to undertake introspection not only concerning the most recent suspected case of corruption, but also on the general level of service they provide to Bali’s foreign visitors, bearing in mind that immigration officials work on the front line in presenting a positive image of Bali.
Quoted in the Bali Post, the Vice-chairman of the Bali chapter of the Association of Indonesian Travel Agents (ASITA), Ketut Ardana, said that his membership had complained “tens of times” regarding the poor service of immigration officials; in each instance ASITA’s complaints fell on deaf ears.
While emphasizing that he leaves the final disposition of the current case to the legal process, Ardana called for firm action to be taken against any officials eventually proven guilty.
Commenting separately, the vice-chairman of the Bali Tourism Board (BTB), Nyoman Suwidjana, said he was not surprised with the case of suspected corruption involving Rp. 3 billion. The BTB official, who is also a leading university academic, said: “This is an old song. From the unprofessional way in which the officials work in addition to their poor mental attitude, sooner or later, malfeasance is certain to occur. Frankly, we are tired of trying to shine the spotlight on such (corrupt) practices.”
Suwidjana told the press that if immigration is unable to do their job correctly, the government should seriously consider contracting the visa-on-arrivals services to the private sector. Suwidjana added: “The government would only play a supervisory role. Let the private sector, acting professionally, provide this service. This would be better than allowing the image of Bali to be sacrificed. This is nonsense to allow ourselves to be seen as corrupt.”
Bank Indonesia calculates that US$8.5 million was collected in visa-on-arrivals fees for the four-month period January-April.