(IO/Muhammad Hidayat)

The problem with the database will only be solved if field surveys are carried out to directly assess the financial status of the potential beneficiary households. Officers conducting the survey can see first-hand the real condition on the ground. This will prevent exclusion or inclusion errors. They can also check the identity (ID card/KTP and family registration card/KK) of the people they survey to avoid duplicate data, and to make sure that they are not “fictitious”. 

Therefore, it is time for the regional administrations, in this case the social service agencies to conduct a direct survey to see whether they meet the criteria. This will ensure that the database remains accurate and up-to-date. 

The social assistance program is a populist program that is not only prone to being politicized, but also corrupted. The latest Covid-19 social assistance corruption scandal involving ex-Social Affairs Minister Juliari P. Batubara is still fresh in our mind. This is not the first time, of course, as there have been many cases of other types of social assistance corruption such as illegal levies and cuts with various modus operandi conducted by officials from the provincial down to the village level. 

The Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) revealed that in the period between June 2 and August 30, 2020, illegal levies in the form of transportation fees, labor fees, to administrative fees that recipients need to pay to obtain the social assistance range between Rp10,000 to Rp200,000. 

The current BLT disbursement is also rife with allegations of corruption by village officials who deduct the cash handouts by up to Rp100,000 per person. Some recipients in Cikakak village, Banjarharjo, Brebes regency, complained about the cut purportedly used for sedekah bumi (a local thanksgiving tradition by making offerings to the earth or God) in 2023. 

Given that various forms of illegal levies are still prevalent during BLT disbursement, the government should educate the recipients not to give share of their cash assistance to other parties, and open a reporting centre in the community such as through the post offices if they are being “extorted” by unscrupulous officials. 

In addition, BLT distribution through post offices often attracts a large crowd. If not managed properly this can create unwanted problem of its own. For example, a man in Bogor experienced convulsions while standing in long queue presumably due to exhaustion. 

Actually, the government has set the procedure for BLT disbursement, specifying the time, location and citizenship documents (KTP and KK) as well as invitation letter that must be produced in order to receive the cash handouts. 

However, not all recipients, especially the poor, are informed of the procedure. This is why public education and outreach are crucial, and it is the duty of neighborhood (RT/RW) officials to familiarize the community with the technical aspects. At the disbursement locations, the post office staff should also be trained to manage the large crowd so the process can be done in an orderly manner. 

Currently, many people who were BLT recipients in the previous year are suddenly excluded. Of course, they are in dismay. To ensure the success of this year’s BLT disbursement, the government should focus on improving the grievance redress mechanism by providing complaint channels that are more effective and efficient, especially for the poor.