|"'Making the books
look good'" or how anti-corruption efforts enable corruption
in Kupang, Eastern Indonesia"
Sylvia Tidey, Department
of Anthropology, Universiteit van Amsterdam
The construction sector is generally categorized
as the most corrupt one, particularly when concerning government funded
construction projects. In the last decade, Indonesia has taken serious
steps to curb corruption in its construction sector. In spite of this,
ethnographic research has shown that "corrupt practices"
persist. This discrepancy between plans designed to implement change
and the on-the-ground practices is central to my paper. However, I
don't want to ask the question of why anti-corruption strategies have
failed. Rather I ask: if these recent structural changes did not reduce
corruption, what effects did they have? By exploring how the manifold
anti-corruption strategies affected a tender held in 2008 at the Department
of Public Works in Kupang, Eastern Indonesia, I argue that procedures
to reduce corruption in the construction sector have actually enabled
new opportunities for corruption. To make this argument I will show
that in order to avoid suspicions of "corrupt behavior"
contractors and officials display a tremendous preoccupation with
maintaining adherence to the form of the new rules and regulations.
This becomes particularly clear in the various documents that circulated
during the tender. I therefore argue that documents form a significant
ethnographic point of departure from which to study the unintended
effects of anti-corruption programs, especially when they perform
the ambiguous effect of both strengthening the anti-corruption discourse
and subverting it.
Sylvia Tidey is a cultural anthropologist
and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science
Research (University of Amsterdam). She received her Ph.D at the
University of Amsterdam in 2012, her MA at Leiden University in
2006, and her BA at Leiden University in 2005. Sylvia is currently
working on a book project based on the Ph.D research she conducted
between 2007-2009 in government offices in Eastern Indonesia, tentatively
titled Performing the State: Corruption and Reciprocal Obligations
in Eastern Indonesian Bureaucracy. She is also working on her postdoctoral
research project Happiness in Times