Is Civil Society Able to Exercise Accountability of Government to Its Citizen?[1]

By Saldi Isra[2]


The rampant corruption in Indonesia grows from the center of power up to the lowest administrative level, involves various stakeholders with various kinds of corruptive acts. The government in this extent has the primary role to either ‘slay’ or foster the latent danger of corruption. The data published by Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) during 2004 indicated that the highest corruptive behavior modus is embezzlement totalled to 104 cases; lawfully justified corruption, 84 cases; markup, 69 cases; budget cutback, 35 cases; and bribery 29 cases. From various modes of corruptive behavior, types of offenders are dominated by local legislative institutions, 125 cases; local head of government, 84 cases; local governance apparatus, 57 cases; departmental apparatus, 15 cases; and secretary of province/municipal governance, 7 cases.

The data presented indicates that the involvement of governance apparatus (executive, legislative, and judiciary) in the corruption cases is significant. The cases due to various causes, ranging from fulfilling life’s needs, insufficiency of salary, greed, poor morality up to opportunity. Jeremy Pope views from a certain point of view that corruption is viewable as a problem of individuals with excessive ambition and greed.[3] However, the greed would at least be able to be limited by the presence of clean, transparent, and accountable system.

The ‘corroded’ system provides chances for corruptive behaviour. The wide-open chances then could motivate offenders to commit corruption. The chances could also emerge from various elements. The creation and preservation of integrity in the life of society and public service require several elements, which include Laws, legal codes, and code of conduct; a society filled with religious, political and social values would expect the honesty of politicians and officials; professionalism among the officials; elitism in the high-ranked civil servants; and political leadership that shows truthful morality in both the government and private sectors side.[4]

Those elements or systems would then seal the chancces for corruption. One of the systems often exposed in the eradication of corruption is the correct transparency and accountability mechanism. Unfortunately several countries (especially the developing countries), failed to build a correct system, and worse, even the system opens the space for the corruption to occur. Such condition is exposed by Robert Harris as follows:

The irony to be noted is that government strategies that may be commonly regarded as good and sensible often create demands for, and facilitate the supply of illegal goods and services.[5]

In the government, bureaucrats inevitably have enormous share in creating corrupt system. The notes of Artidjo Alkostar reveal that bureaucrats corruptive behavior more often leads to political nuances. Why political corruption occur in the bureaucrats; their positions are politically strategic and holds the mandate of the people. The strategic position of the bureaucracy is depicted by Gabriel Almond; Bureaucracies are of enormous importance in the performance of the communication function in political systems. Even in Democratic political systems, the bureaucracy is one of the most important sources, if not the most important source of information about public issues and politically significant events.[6]

Consequently, the bureaucracy holds a leading role in exercising a system. System is imperative and primary in the fight for corruption, but system is also dependent to bureaucrats in order to function well. Robert Klitgaard says that bureaucracy critics bear a mind that the government and civil servants work intelligently and active to improve economic development and then mortified by their efforts that accept bribery.[7]

Artidjo sees the political game of the bureaucrats to ease the corruption by ‘damaging’ the system is one of the techniques to commit corruption. Hence, the system must be created in eradicating corruption is a system that limits each and every chance of possible corruption. Then what kind of system that needs to be created to prevent corruption practices?

System Correction; not Human

UK once experienced the damage of bureaucracy and devastation of system due to corruption. David Osborne reveal that the experience was during the Thatcher’s administration. Up to 1986, Lady Margaret Thatcher was frustrated by her disability to reform the British bureaucracy. For seven years, she had administered a strong remedy, little by little: downsizing, privatization, efficiency audit, and fought the Employee’s Union. She, however, failed to change her civil servants’ behavior.[8] Her failure was caused by only correcting the human. It is very natural when human can not defeat themselves, even under the threats of criminal codes violation.

The correction of human must be followed by the repair of the system that regulates the life of the human. The principles of system correction lies in the realm of statesmanship, known as good governance. According to Teten Masduki, good governance is a principle that creates balance between the relations of the society with the state and the state with individuals. He also says that each and every public policy should involve various sectors; both the society and individuals with a distinct code of conduct. In relations with the law, there are several elements of good governance that needs attention:

  1. The presence of legal codes for all actions or policies taken in the process of state administration/governance.
  2. The presence of legislation drafting through several standard measures, such as the standards of empirical, philosophy, human rights, and justice.

Theoretically, there are 6 measures to present a good government. Such measures are depicted in the chart presented on the following page.


Measures to Accomplish Good Governance[9]


The chart indicated that the outer measure (read; initial) to perform in accomplishing the ’good governance’ is the effort to include community elements and community organization and achieve the concept of accountability in the governance. Public participation is inevitably required. Every community member has the equal rights to obtain anything s/he deserves, that includes the transparency and accountability of governance. This had been urged centuries ago by Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau stated that the definition of civil liberty is equality.[10] That would mean, if an official could easily access the report of governance, then so could a citizen. Whenever the governance organization distinguishes its rights and liabilities to act transparently and accountably, then the organs of the government is no longer effective. Corruption and ineffective governance administrative organ produce direct impact on the growth of economy in the third-world countries.[11] In overcoming the problem, the presence of a system that opens the space for public participation in guarding the governance is highly required.

Significance of Public Participation

The above exposition reveals the significance of public participation concept. The notion that supports the rights of public to access information was briefly delivered by James Madison, one of the drafters of the US Constitution: The government instituted by the people without the information for the people or without the way of accessing information is not more that a prologue of a joke or a tragedy, or both. Knowledge shall always oppress the ignorance; and the people wishing to rule themselves must arm themselves with the power endowed by knowledge.[12]

However, it is the people who wish for public participation in coping with the obstacles when a government tends to be authoritarian. Normally, the apparatus of this ’type’ of government tend to withdraw themselves from hte public participation in managing the government. The struggle to obtain information occurs between the public who wants information and the people who hold the power and do not wish the people to be informed. The Philosophy of Madison implied:

- Secrecy hinders the political education of people and thus the choices made in election is not based on complete information;

- The opportunity for individuals to contribute to political initiatives becomes dull; and

- The presence of political climate that causes citizens to view the government not with responsible and trust, but with prejudice and disbelief.[13]

In the condition of Indonesia, Musa Asy’arie realizes that Indonesia posesses authoritarian character in governance due to historical background. Culturally the bureaucracy of the government of the Unitary State of Indonesia is basically the continuation and the extension of the colonial and monarchy government throughout the Nusantara archipelago that were founded based on the orientation of power.[14] However, the reform in 1998 brought the awareness to the public that society is verily required in maintaining the governance to run in accordance to the track of democracy and the objective of the state; to provide the welfare for its people. Hence, Indonesia is now in the effort to accomplish a more participatory government.

Theoretically, there are 2 different, basic theories in viewing the participatory concept. According to the Elite Democracy Theory, the scope of democracy is limited to the participation of citizens in a free and fair election, and thereinafter, the citizens handed some form of mandate to the administration of government to those who were elected as the legislators.[15] This theory does not provide a space for the citizens to participate in the control of the officials they voted for. The theory depicts that when the citizen handed some form of mandate through a democratic election, then the participation of the citizens has been channeled through the representatives. The deviation conducted by the representatives can be corrected through a determined mechanism as stated in the legal codes. Meanwhile, the Participatory Democracy Theory places the role of community on a different place.

The Participatory Democracy Theory, on the hand suggests that citizens, both in groups and individually are not merely consumers of satisfaction, but require the opportunity and encouragement to self expression and development.[16]

Realizing that citizen’ participation in the administration of government is a part of self expression and development as the absolute bearer of sovereignty, then the participation of citizen in a state is imperative. There are several benefits waiting for stakeholders if the government is open:

- Well-informed public participates better in the process of democracy.;

- Parliament, press and public should naturally follow and research the actions of the government; secrecy is a great hindrance in the responsibility of government;

- Civil service concludes crucial decisions impacting the community at large and to make civil service responsible, the government must provide complete information on what civil service does;

- Better information flow produces a more effective government and helpful in developing more flexible policies; and

- The cooperation among the public and the government will be strengthened due to availability of information.[17]

The Role of Local Public

Article 28C sentence (2) of The 1945 Constitution declares that: “each and every individual is entitled to improve himself in the struggle of his rights collectively to develop his society, nation, and country”. The article provides a space for the community to participate in the control of governance performance in order to accomplish a good governance.

The primary key to understand good governance is comprehension on the principles therein.[18] One of the most important principles of good governance is the participation of the community itself in determining the direction of government policy. Public participation places all citizens equally in the decision-making activities both directly and through the authorized representative institutions that represent their interests.[19]

Society in a progressive environment (large municipals) has a broad chance and structures to participate. It will different from the situation experienced by the community in a more remote areas. This is caused by various aspects; education, economy, social, cultural etc, that deter them from perticipating better in the accomplishment of good governance. One of the most important parts generally neglected by local government is providing media for better citizen participation to the local government.

Actual participation in the process of local governance depends on the opennesses in the legal frameworks. It is useful to compile various different aspects of a legal system. In this sense, empowerment framework – a set of rights to support civil actions – is imiperative. These would include the freedom of union, of speech, and media rights, which altogether, enable public participation to organize themselves, obtain information and project their views through media. Rights on the information on governance process is essential to assure openness and accountability.[20]

Public participation is accordingly crucial in accomplishing a good local governance. The deviation that naturally occur are the absence of transparency in the practice of governance and the obscurity of corruptive behavior that worsen local finance.

In this context, it must be understood that the mission of local autonomy is to strengthen the local community or people (either politically, economically, or culturally) by means of construct designing the government as facilitator and protector of society; not in adversatively; strengthen the state’s position (government apparatus) by various behavior: CCN (Corruptive, Collusive, and Nepotistic), and highly-centralistic oriented, driven by loads of interests from the entrepreneurs (multinational, national, and/or local) and Army that is political and engaged in business.[21]

Transparency and accountability of governance is one of basic aspects for the accomplishment of good governance. The accomplishment of good governance level requires openness, participation, and ease of access for the public to public policy decision-making particularly in the usage of various resources that are directly related to the public interests. With the absence of transparent process, the collaboration among various stakeholders as one of the crucial elements for the accomplishment of good governance would be difficult. Transparency provides assurance to the public on the dissemination of policy information and it would ease the public and stakeholders to control the administration of governance.[22]

The CCN phenomena would serve as the indicator of the lack of accountability among municipal governments that is an important character of good governance. The existence of CCN makes the government, not only inaccountable in public view, but also looses trust and legitimacy[23].

Based on the facts previously exposed, it is then realized that public participation in ‘straightening’ governance performance is vital. However, the creation of mechanism in exercising the notion, especially in coping with the embezzlement of local budget by local officials should further be studied and then synchronized with the existing limitations of the public. A regulation that supports the availability of space for public participation is required. Article 53 Law No. 10 of 2004 on the Creation of Legislations opens a verily limited space for the public participation in the creation of legislations. Threfore, in order to create a participatory space in local governance, the local government (both legislative and executive) needs to be ‘sincere’ in creating a local legislation that would open such space of public participation. The government of Solok Regency, Province of West Sumatra showed the ‘sincerety’. By means of Local Ordinance No. 5 of 2004 on the Transparency of Governance Administration and Public Participation, the government of Solok Regency has built the spirit of good governance.

Thank you.

[1] The paper was delivered in Wilton Park conference on Indonesia: political and economic prospects, organized by Wilton Park; a non-profit executive agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in Wiston House, Steyning, West Sussex, 3-6 March, 2008.

[2] Lecturer of Constitutional Law and Director of The Center of Constitutional Studies, Faculty of Law. Andalas University.

[3] Jeremy Pope (edt), Pengembangan Sistem Integritas Nasional (The Development of the System for National Integrity), Penerbit Utama Grafiti, Jakarta, 1999, page 42.

[4] Ibid, page 39.

[5] Robert Harris, Political Corruption, In and Beyond the Nation State, Routledge Publisher, London and New York, 2003, page 56.

[6] Artidjo Alkostar, Political Corruption in Modern Countries (Korupsi Politik di Negara Modern), FH UII Press, Yogyakarta, 2008, page 40.

[7] Robert Klitgaard, Eradicating Corruption (Membasmi Korupsi), Yayasan Obor Indonesia, Jakarta, 2001, page 44.

[8] David Osborne dan Peter Plastrik, Memangkas Birokrasi, Lima Strategi Menuju Pemerintahan Wirausaha, Penerbit PPM, Jakarta, 2000, page23.


[9], The Good Governance Standard for Public Services, page 4.

[10] Jean Jacques Rousseau, Du Contract Social, Visimedia, Jakarta, page 87.

[11] Robert Klitgaard, Op cit, page38.

[12] Jeremy Pope, Strategies of Eradicating Corruption; Element of National Integrity System (Strategi Memberantas Korupsi; Elemen Sistem Integritas Nasional), Publisher: Yayasan Obor Indonesia and Transparency International Indonesia, Jakarta, 2003, page 428.

[13] Ibid. page 429.

[14] Musa Asyarie, Bureaucracy of Power, Business, and Corruption, in; The Jeehad against Corruption (Birokrasi Kekuasaan, Bisnis Proyek, dan Korupsi, dalam; Jihad Melawan Korupsi), Publisher: Bukum Kompas, Jakarta, 2005, page 72.

[15] Takdir Rahmadi, Regulating Participation of Citizens in the Governance Decision-Making Process and Law Enforcement in Indonesia (Pengaturan Peranserta Warga Dalam Pengambilan Keputusan Pemerintahan dan Penegakan Hukum di Indonesia), Paper delivered in the Workshop of Lecturers for National Defense Course within the Military Territorial Command I – Bukit Barisan, 10-11 April 2000, Padang, page 2.

[16] Ibid, page 3.

[17] Jeremy Pope, Loc-cit.

[18] Badan Anti Korupsi;Bako Sumbar (Anti Corruption Body of West Sumatra), Public Service by Local Government, Paper delivered in the Work Meeting of Bako Sumbar, 2006. See also Mardiasmo, Otonomi dan Manajemen Keuangan Daerah (Autonomy and Management of Local Finance).

[19] Read: Good Governance:

[20] Hans Antlov et al, Bila Warga Ikut menata Negara: Wacana Negeri-negeri Jiran, Thailand, Indonesia, Filipina, (When Citizen Participates in State Administration: Discourses in Neighboring States, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines), translated by Frits Pangemanan, Logo Link, Manila Filipina, 2005, page 27.

[21] Zulfan Heri in Pemulihan Ekonomi dan Otonomi Daerah (Economic Recovery and Local Autonomy), Lembaga Studi Pembangunan Indonesia (The Institute for Indonesian Development Studies), 2001, page 307.

[22] Agus Dwiyanto et al, Reformasi Tata Pemerintahan dan Otonomi Daerah (Governance Reform and Local Autonomy), Pusat Studi Kependudukan dan Kebijakan Universitas Gadjah Mada (The Center for Population and Policy Studies of University of Gadjah Mada),2003, page 129.

[23] Ibid, page 105.