Aceh awaiting post-tsunami houses as corruption hinders rebuilding
Hard-hitting claims have been levelled at the government agency that manages rehabilitation funds for Aceh and Nias: executives get dizzying wages while field projects are abandoned half-way through for "lack of money".
Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) Nearly two years after the tsunami on 26 December 2004, people from the hardest-hit Indonesian province are still living in shacks, while controversy rages over alleged corruption in the management of government funds for reconstruction.
Allegations blame the Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR), which seems to have spent only a minimal part of funds at its disposal for rehabilitation projects in the area. Exasperated by broken promises, people are starting to rebuild their own homes.
Muhammad Kalianda, resident of Peulanggahan village in Banda Aceh, said the contractor from BRR abandoned the reconstruction of his home half-way. "I have to do everything my own. I've spent 50 million rupees (5,434 US dollars)," he said. "The workers who had started the house said they were leaving because they had not been paid."
Local sources said at least 80 houses had been abandoned by reconstruction firms taken on by BRR or by Oxfam, because "the money ran out", so tsunami survivors are still living in shacks, rented accommodation or with relatives. No one knows when houses will be ready to move into. BBR spokesman Tuwanku Mirza promised the agency would take legal action against contractors who simply left without finishing their jobs. Barbara Stocking, executive director of Oxfam, said increased expenses had doubled budget estimates but promised "we will continue completing unfinished houses."
Last August, the independent NGO, Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) denounced serious irregularities and corruption in at least five major projects operated by BRR worth 23.8 billion rupees (2.2 million dollars). Teten Masduki, ICW coordinator said that in 2005, the BRR spent 3.9 trillion rupees but only 414.6 billion were used for restoration and reconstruction works. Akhiruddin Wahyuddin, coordinator of the Aceh-based Anti-Corruption Movement, said: "30 to 40% of all the aid funds, Indonesian and international, have been tainted by graft". He even claimed that salaries paid to BRR executives were "another form of legalized theft" and said the BRR chairman, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, gets a salary of 75 million rupees per month, even more than President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who makes 62.7 million rupees per year.
Now the court is looking into these allegations. Meanwhile the prosecution has accused public officials of falsely increasing costs to appropriate funds for themselves. However it seems the government has not yet lost faith in the BRR, which has promised to make its accounts public.In Aceh alone and surrounding areas, an estimated 167,700 people were killed by the tsunami, 37,000 went missing and 500,000 were internally displaced. According to the United Nations, the 2004 tsunami destroyed an estimated 1.3 million homes and buildings, eight seaports, four gas depots, 85% of clean-water facilities, 92% of sanitation facilities, 120 kilometres of roads, 18 bridges and 20% of electrical distribution points in Aceh and adjoining areas. The total damage was estimated to be 4.5 billion US dollars, representing 2.2% of Indonesia's gross domestic product and 97% of Aceh province's annual economic production. The waves also destroyed about 40,000 hectares of rice fields and 70% of the fishing industry. The BRR was created by President Yudhoyono to manage funds for reconstruction and Mangkurubroto was called to run it because of his experience as ex-Energy Minister and for his reputation of being incorruptible. He manages funds from both state and donors, worth a total of 13 trillion rupees