Tax collectors in Indonesia will soon be trading their office wear for military fatigues, reported the Financial Times on Thursday, after the finance ministry announced plans to send 32,000 of its tax officers for two to three weeks of physical training with the military in order to boost morale and promote professionalism.
The tax collectors are set to undergo their training from the presidential security guard as well as the army’s strategic reserve command, Kostrad, which have fought in most Indonesian military operations since their formation – from the take over of Western New Guinea in 1960 as well as Operation Seroja in East Timor.
The Finance Ministry’s director general for taxation Fuad Rahmany added, in an interview with The Jakarta Globe, that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), police departments and prosecutors' offices had been similarly enlisted to crack down on corrupt tax collectors. Indonesians were shocked last year, after reported emerged that revealed how a tax official, Gayus Tambunan, had bribed his way out of jail while awaiting conviction for taking kickbacks to cut companies' taxes.
“This is not military training but disciplinary training that is aiming to increase employees’ patriotism and morale,” said Chandra Budi, spokesman for the tax office.
“It requires a strong mentality and much vigour to fulfil the task of collecting tax,” Budi noted.
One senior government official however dismissed the boot camp plan as a “gimmick”, arguing that tax officers did not need military-style training to become more professional.
Danang Widoyoko, the co-ordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch, a local NGO, also shared this view.
“The so-called disciplinary training at the tax office won’t be effective in increasing its integrity because the corruption there is systemic,” he said.
According to Transparency International, Indonesia is currently the 100th most corrupt country in the world. Widoyoko noted that if the government was serious about fighting corruption in the tax office, it should conduct more “wealth verification” checks on senior officials.
Nonetheless, the Indonesian finance ministry believes that the move could potentially help improve the image of the tax office, which has been occasionally accused of taking large bribes from companies and individuals in exchange for helping them to evade their taxes.
“I cannot guarantee that all tax officers will be angels," said Rahmany. "But, basically, we try to educate them here about integrity, that that they’re not allowed to accept bribes, that they’re not allowed to extort or cause difficulties to taxpayers.”
"It is very important to build character," added Dedi Rudaedi, a spokesman at the tax office, to Reuters. "We have 32,000 employees and the majority want to make a change, they want the office to be cleaner."