The emergence of an understanding of the importance of the principles of good governance in the mid-1990s has had a quite significant impact on the evolution of the Indonesian polity. This fact was evident in the second amendment to the Constitution which guarantees the right of every citizen to obtain information. Article 28F of the Constitution as amended reads: “every person has the right to communicate and obtain information for his personal development and the development of his social environment, as well as the right to seek, obtain, possess, store, process and convey information using any available channel of communication.”
This recognition of the right to obtain information was a breath of fresh air in the new democratic way of life in Indonesia. This was especially so given that in the preceding era, during the New Order Government of President Soeharto, information was the exclusive preserve of, and monopolized by, those in power. This applied above all to information bearing on public policy. The community was simply not able to obtain information and so its role in the development process was very weak because of the strictures placed on its possession of information.
The recognition of this right to information was accompanied, somewhat like a travel companion, by a strengthening of civil society groups both within NGO circles and within universities. That process speeded up the democratization process in Indonesia, especially with its call for a more transparent system of government. The result was a move to initiate legislation pursuant to the right to information mandated in the Constitution. Thus, by 2002, the Indonesian National Parliament (DPR) had begun the process of drafting a law, now known as Law No. 14/2008 (UU KIP) concerning freedom of access to public information (Freedom of Information) (Keterbukaan Informasi Publik (KIP)), which was passed in 2008. Although adopted in 2008 it did not enter into force until 2 years later, in 2010.
UU KIP contains detailed provisions on how the right to information can be exercised in practice. At a more fundamental level, the law also calls for a paradigm shift on the part of all government funded elements of the body politic, namely the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary; all agencies whose principal function is governmental in nature and which are funded, wholly or in part, by either the National State Budget (APBN) or a Local Budget (APBD); and NGOs which are wholly or partly funded by the APBN or an APBD or which receive funding from the community and/or from abroad. All information within an organ of the body politic is accessible to the general public except for exempt information.
Broadly speaking the UU KIP covers five main issues: the types of information accessible to the general public; the mechanisms for obtaining that information; the Information Commission and it legal framework; dispute settlement; and penal provisions listing penalties for infringements of the law. It makes provisions relating to four categories of information: that which is required to be made available and is to be made public from time to time; that which is to be made public immediately; that which is required to be available at any time; and that which is exempt from release. The first category (required to be made available and released publicly from time to time) includes information on public institutions, their performance records, financial reports and other information specified in legislation. Such information must be released at least once in every six months. Falling into the second category (information that must be made public immediately) is information impacting on the lives and welfare of the general public. The third category (information which must be available at any time) encompasses information under the control of public institutions relating to the policies, programs, activities and annual expenditure of public institutions.
More detail on how the UU KIP was to be implemented was contained in government regulation PP No. 62/2010 concerning Implementation of UU KIP and two regulations of the Information Commission (KI), namely PerKI No. 1/2010 concerning Standards of Public Information Services and PerKI No. 2/2010 concerning Settlement of Public Information Disputes. One of the stipulations in PP No. 62/2010 was that every public institution must establish, by 23 August 2011 at the latest, an Office for the Management of Information and Documentation (PPID) (freedom of information office), with institutional responsibility for the storage, documentation, provision and services relating to information accessible to the public.
UU KIP was a breath of fresh air in Indonesia’s democratization process. This was especially true in respect of advocacy work on budgets which had always been confronted with the problem of obtaining copies of budgetary information. This law was indirectly mandating a change of paradigm for the bureaucracy which up to that time had regarded budgetary information as confidential and therefore not releasable to the public. With the entry into force of UU KIP, information relating to the policies, programs, activities and budgets of public institutions became public information which had t0 be made available and could be obtained by the public.
Nevertheless, a watchful eye needs to be kept on UU KIP to ensure that it is properly implemented. It was for this reason that the National Secretariat of the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Seknas FITRA) lodged requests for budget information with 119 public institutions at the national level, including government ministries, non-ministry government agencies, off-line agencies and political parties holding seats in the national parliament (DPR). The requests were lodged in accordance with procedures laid down in UU KIP.