In what could be misconstrued (disalahartikan) as a defense for corrupt government officials, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Wednesday that the poor grasp on how the bureaucracy works by government employees had resulted in “unintentional” misuse of state funds.

“Indeed, mismanagement that involves criminal acts, of course, must go to judicial processes. However, we need to look at the area of prevention,” the President said in the beginning of a meeting with members of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) at the Presidential Office.

“There are many state officials, both at the central and regional levels, who still have no knowledge or understanding that some of their actions are actually wrong. We must prevent this. Don’t leave them in the dark only to be caught in trouble later,” Yudhoyono added.

Vice President Boediono, as well as a number of Cabinet officials also attended the meeting, which was later continued behind closed doors.

Yudhoyono wanted the BPK to help with preventive measures.

“I appreciate the BPK for its good work, but it would be better if the BPK does not only focus on wrongdoings or enforcement. I would like it if the BPK could enact preventive measures to curb the wrongdoings or misappropriations of officials who lack the understanding [about how the system works],” Yudhoyono said.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) researcher Febri Diansyah criticized Yudhoyono’s statements, saying the President was making an excuse for rampant practices of corruption.

“The President should contemplate and come up with a comprehensive evaluation based on BPK reports. According to the 2006 Law on the BPK, the agency’s main duty is to oversee the management of state funds,” Febri said.

“Reform and [corruption] prevention are the government’s responsibility. It is part of the President’s job. He should not take his hands off (lepas tangan) the matter and give it to other agencies,” he added.

One major finding in the BPK’s report for the second semester of 2011 was the rampant misuse of state resources for official trips.

The 2011 report said that the state could potentially suffer losses of Rp 34.59 billion (US$3.67 million), or about 0.2 percent of the total Rp 18 trillion budget for official trips in 2011.

BPK chairman Hadi Purnomo said that the alleged (dugaan) misappropriations were found in least at 28 government agencies.

“The modus operandi included double accounting, mark-ups, fictitious trips (perjalanan yang diada-adakan/dibuat-buat), and what appears to be forgery in documents (pemalsuam dokumen),” he said.

Illicit practices (praktik terlarang) in official trips have remained a regular feature in BPK reports for years.

The potential losses from official travel funds found by the BPK in 2010 totalled Rp 89.5 billion. In 2009, the potential loss from the same practices was Rp 73.5 billion.

The entire 2011 BPK report included a total of 4,941 irregular transactions amounting to Rp 13.25 trillion during second semester of the year.

Only a fraction of the amount, or Rp 81.71 billion, had been recovered as of April this year, when the BPK issued the report.

The BPK audited 143 institutions, including 30 institutions at the central level, 56 institutions at the regional level and 29 regional state-owned enterprises.

In 2010, misuse of travel budgets at the Foreign Ministry went to court. Ten suspects, mostly ministry officials, were named suspects by the Special Crimes division of the Attorney General’s Office (Kejaksaan Agung) (AGO).