JAKARTA - The presence of the Directorate General of Customs and Excise (Bea Excise) often brings problems. In fact, since the Old Order government. Instead of bringing benefits to the state, its employees work like VOC officials who only take care of their personal interests.
This condition made President Soeharto and the New Order (Orba) furious, not playing games. Moreover, the institution often makes it difficult for big importers. Suharto took a stand. He made Customs and Excise like a dead animation. All of his employees were '13,000 people' - laid off, half of them were then fired.
The issue of proliferating corrupt practices in Customs and Excise is not new. Its presence as the door of trade for Indonesia is the reason. This vital function has made many of its employees perpetuate fraudulent and corrupt practices.
The smuggling of goods and tax evasion is a lesson. Even practice is not much different from what was done by Dutch trade officials, VOC hundreds of years ago. The owner of power only cares about personal gains, while the benefits for VOC are no longer considered. A corrupt behavior that is one of the reasons VOC disbanded and went bankrupt.
The same condition was overcome by corrupt Customs officials. They only care about personal gain, nothing more. Soekarno and the Old Order saw that the problem was quite vital. Big guy then tried to do some breakthroughs.
Replacing the Minister of State Contributions who oversees Customs, for example. Bung Karno had entrusted the position to Police General Hoegeng Imam Santoso. All because Hoegeng was known to be anti-bribery and honest. The results were brilliant.
The honest police were able to identify all kinds of problems faced by Customs, even though his leadership was short. Hoegeng found that smuggling and tax evasion were a classic problem that Customs was still facing around the clock.
"The general problems I face with regard to my function as Minister of State Contributions are classic issues such as smuggling or tax evasion and customs. Apart from being a human preference to be able to make big profits with small risks, it is difficult to experience because of our own internal weaknesses".
For example, deficiencies in systems, equipment, and people, what else is capable, brave, and honest. Convoluted procedures, for example, or ship shortages, are included in them. The need for competent, brave, and honest officials is needed in certain cases," said Hoegeng Imam Santoso as written by Abrar Yusra da Ramadhan KH in the book Hoegeng: Police Ideal and Reality (1993).
Conditions that were not much different were also present in the New Order era. In fact, the authority possessed by Customs and Excise increased. They seem to be transformed into law before itself, aka the institution that became the law itself in the 1980s. The New Order government also had difficulty perpetuating its control function.
Customs and Excise that must work to make trade easier actually works the other way around. They are often the source of delays and corrupt practices. This activity is supported by all superiors to corrupt subordinates. As a result, the New Order government has been flooded with complaints from various entrepreneurs, including from Japan.
They criticized Customs and Excise which acted slowly and often asked for illegal levies which were not small. The complaint then reached President Suharto's circle. The Smiling General was furious. Several times the Director General of Customs and Excise was summoned by Suharto to his residence.
He explained at length about the complaints that were perpetuated by a number of entrepreneurs. However, Customs and Excise has not improved performance. Moreover, Customs conditions are increasingly corrupt. Suharto also used his last option.
He made Customs and Excise suspended. The presence of Presidential Instruction Number 4 of 1985 became the estuary. The instruction became Suharto's tool to lay off Customs employees. Not only one or two people.
Suharto laid off all his 13,000 employees and half of them were later fired. The decision resulted in the government choosing a private Swiss company, the Suisse Generale Surveillance to replace the role of Customs and Excise.
The New Order Government has implemented something unprecedented: trusting a private company, belonging to another foreign party, to carry out a vital public role. In the context of Indonesia - where private economic institutions, especially those owned by non-Indonesian citizens, are always viewed with full suspicion by the public and political elites. However, this decision is something that cannot be underestimated.
"More than that, it is also an early signal that the government actually wants and is able to directly face the problem of corruption and inefficiencies. By releasing the direct management function of Customs and Excise, the government practically dismissed about half of the 13,000 Customs employees, all of whom were native Indonesians and civil servants," explained Rizal Mallarangeng in the book Breaking the Indonesian Economic Centralism 1986-1992 (2002).