Corrupt Indonesian Officials?
30 July 2015
Corruption In Indonesia
"They are all corrupt in Indonesia." Those are often heard words from cruisers when describing immigration, customs, harbor masters and other officials. From our 7 months experience, cruising throughout Indonesia, we have found irregularities of the officials to be infrequent. What is a far greater problem is the ruthless yacht agents who are supposed to be looking out for the good of their customers but are more interested in lining their own pockets at the expense and ignorance of their clients, and at times, blaming it on the Indonesian officials.
Except for some paperwork, which our very able agent in Jakarta took care of for us and with one other exception, we always renewed our own Indonesian immigration visa and dealt with updating our customs inspections. We have dealt with immigration and customs officials in Sangehi, Sorong, Ambon, Tual, Kupang and Lombok. We have visited with port captains in far more locations . Only in Sorong and Lombok did we have major problems with government officials. In all other offices the officials were extremely pleasant and efficient.
The Sorong immigration office is infamous among cruisers, charter boat operators, agents, and hotel operators, for their foot dragging in processing visa renewals. They are equally well known for their asking for extra payments. For our first visa renewal in Sorong, we were offered a speedy renewal, to be completed in 3 days, at a cost of $35 extra, above the required $28 fee. We declined as we were not in a hurry and could wait the week the visa renewal would take. But then sitting in the immigration office for the required total of 16 hours, in hot humid air, stirred by a slowly revolving overhead fan , we realized our mistake and would have gladly handed over the money if the offer were still valid. If you have to endure the visa renewal process in Sorong, for fun, be sure to put your feet on the foot stool in front of the couch and check your watch to see how long it takes a young official to scolded you like an uncouth child. But he does it in Indonesian so you can give him odd quizzical looks then feign an apology. Simple amusements to help pass the many hours.
Sorong immigration will take a week for what other immigration offices will do in 24 hours. As hard as the Indonesian Board of Tourism works to attract tourists, the Sorong office does what they can to undo that work. But it isn't just cruisers, any foreigner working in the Raja Ampat area must use the same office to renew visas and they too endure the same negative experience. It does not matter if you use an agent or not, Sorong is a majorly malfunctioning office. In Sorong, there does not seem to be an agent who targets yachts for assisting in renewing visas or customs requirements so cruisers handle the process themselves. Upon renewing our visa for the second time in the Sorong office, we offered to pay extra so we would not have to wait a week for the renewal and sit in the office for another 16 hours, but we could bribe only the counter worker with a pack of cigarettes. When the visa was renewed, he grabbed the paperwork off of the boss's desk and handed it to us which saved us additional hours of waiting for the boss's return from his extended lunch break.
The Customs office in Sorong was not a problem at all, run by friendly, helpful people.
One month when we cleared back into Indonesia in the city of Kupang, Rebecca hired a motor cycle driver to take her to all the distant government offices to complete our entry paperwork. The driver cost was $20 over two days. No government official asked for extra or unusual payment. They were all very honest and helpful. Other cruisers who hired a "yacht agent" paid far more for their entry clearance. In Kupang, one American cruiser recently paid a local well known, "unlicensed", agent, $150 to carry him around and help clear his boat into the country. A larger, nicer looking Australian boat paid the same person $350 to do the same work. It pays, in Indonesia, to dress down and claim not to be a rich Australian! Much of the money this agent charged was for "bribes" to smooth the paperwork formalities. And this is what we found in the harbor of Serangan in Bali and in Medana Bay, Lombok; the "agents" are the instigators asking for "bribe money" or "admin fee", which often goes no further than their own pocket.
In Dili, East Timor, we met an American cruising couple newly arrived from Kupang, Indonesia. The yacht owner had hired this same non "licensed" agent to quickly clear them out of Indonesia, for weather reasons they were in a hurry. After a day and a half, the agent still hadn't delivered the final paperwork. The yacht owner gave the agent the equivalent of $100 and told him to go bribe the officials and get his paperwork done!. At the end of the day, the agent returned without the paperwork saying they were still working on it but now things were speeding along. The American was a big dude and had a temperament not to mess with. The agent had gotten himself into a real bind and was about to get pummeled when wisely he slipped the $100 from his pocket and handed it back to the American.
As an example of the local economy in Kupang, a casual worker will earn $10 for a day. A college educated person working in an administrative position in a container ship office will earn around $25 per day. For a "yacht agent" to charge hundreds for a couple hours work is outrageous.
Any time we sniff illegal but substantial charges being thrown at us by a government agent, we are not shy to ask for a receipt and to ask for a good explanation. It is amazing how this request dissolves the situation, not only in Indonesia but also the Philippines and other countries.
In Lombok, we paid, a person at Medana Bay Marina, to handle our visa renewal. This person declined to call them self an "agent" and wanted to be considered an "assistant". There was a big snag and in the end rather than getting the expected 30 days, we were given 4 days before we had to renew again or leave the country. In the process of this failed renewal, our agent/assistant, informed us that there would be an additional fee of $58 "admin fee" for immigration. But when we went to immigration to pick up our passports and clear out of the country, they did not ask for additional payment. This was money the agent/assistant was trying to collect from us to either stuff in their own pocket or pay under the table to the government agent so of course we never paid it.
To clear out of the country, the next official to deal with after immigration, was customs. The Customs man inspected our boat and finalized our papers. There is no legitimate charge for this formality, however he now asked us for the equivalent of $58 "transportation and accommodation fee". That money was in my hand and the customs man was ready to accept the money but to my question, he could not adequately explain "transportation and accommodation fee". He verified the vehicle he was driving was not his but belonged to the government. He mumbled something about what taxi fares would cost if he had to take one or if we had to take a taxi to his office. What he said about "accommodation fee" made no sense at all as though he was tongue tied in a lie. What finally settled the deal was when I asked for him to write a receipt for the money, which he declined to do. Instead, he suggested I give the money to the agent/assistant who works out of Medana Bay Marina. But that agent/assistant had nothing to do with our formalities with customs and we were not about to throw money into the air like that. It was all quite obviously a scam between the agent/assistant and the customs man of which we called their bluff. In the end, we got all of our proper clearances from Immigration, Customs and the Harbor Master. The only charge was $1 anchoring fee from the Harbor Master for the month our boat was in Lombok.
Over 7 months, we had a lot of good times in Indonesia, saw fantastic sights and met many good people but the "yacht agents" and those business people closest to the tourist centers, can certainly ruin a cruisers attitude. They feel no fiduciary responsibility to their clients and see cruisers as rich ATMs that should be spitting out stacks of cash into their hands.
We have heard from a couple reliable people that Indonesia will soon streamline the paperwork for visiting yachts. That should put a big dent in the need for, and the corruption of, the "yacht agents/assitants".
I have filed a report about our Lombok experience with the home office of Customs, in Jakarta. But I was careful to get names dates and recite all the information about the situation. Best of all was the incriminating emails from the agent/assistant. If I had to do it again in Sorong, I would have taken pictures of the people we dealt with and written down their names and filed a complaint. On the complaint form, there is a means to send attachments.
I think it is time for cruisers to stop being stooges for the unethical people in Indonesia and step forward to file complaints against them as the officials in Jakarta would like. When filing a report, use Google Translate to change the words into Indonesian but also send along the English version.
I have heard that the Directorate General of Sea Transportation, in Jakarta, licenses yacht agents, which means, there are many non licensed "agents/assistants" operating in Indonesia. But I cannot find any information about or a contact address for the office which handles the task of licensing. No "agent" has been cooperative in supplying me with that information. It would be good to have access to a list of legitimate agents. If anyone knows of such a contact point, it would benefit many cruisers if you could add that information in the "Comment" section of this blog. If you have problems with any officials, here are the contact offices to deal with for reporting.
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1. Custom (Bea Cukai)
Telepon : 0800 - 100 - 3545 (bebas pulsa)
SMS : 0821 - 30 - 202045
Faksimili : 021 - 489 - 0966
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Surat : Kepala Pusat Kepatuhan Internal Diraktorat Jenderal Bea dan Cukai
Kantor Pusat Bea dan Cukai
Jl. Ahmad Yani By Pass - Rawamangun, Jakarta Timur
Jakarta - 13230
2. Port Health Clearance (Kesehatan Pelabuhan)
Letter : KEMENTERIAN KESEHATAN REPUBLIK INDONESIA
Jl H.R.Rasuna Said Blok X.5 Kav. 4-9, Jakarta 12950
Telp. 021-5201590 (hunting)
Contact Center : (Kode Lokal) 500567 (Halo Kemkes)Fax : (021) 52921669
3. Immigration (Imigrasi)
Letter : Sekretariat Jenderal Kementerian Hukum dan Hak Asasi Manusia RI
Jl. HR. Rasuna Said kav 6-7, Jakarta, Jakarta Selatan, Indonesia-12940
Telp/Faks : 021- 5253004
http//www.kemkumham.go.id (go to : Kontak Kami, then Pengaduan)
4. Harbour Master (Syahbandar)
Contact 24 hours services : +62 151
Letter : Kementerian Perhubungan RI
Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat No.8, Jakarta 10110
Website : www.dephub.go.id (go to : Pelayanan, then Pengaduan Masyarakat)
Email : @dephub.go.id