It’s a call from the President’s office. Gibran Sesunan, an anti-corruption researcher at an Indonesian university, picks up the phone. His country needs him.
Two years on, Sesunan is now Associate Director at the Office of Presidential Staff, heading the Lapor feedback programme. Citizens can send him complaints about any federal public service in the country. Internally, the report will be sent to the right government agency and monitored for progress.
Sesunan has a mandate from the President to make Lapor cover all levels of government by 2019. GovInsider interviewed him on how the scheme is making complaining easier for Indonesians.
The problem with complaints
Before Lapor, agencies across ministries, provinces and cities did not work together, Sesunan said. Suppose there was a pothole outside your house, and you wrote to your city’s roads department. But that road happened to be the infrastructure ministry’s responsibility, and the city department couldn’t do anything about it.
Even if your complaint somehow found its way to the right agency, there was no guarantee of a response from the government. “It’s like throwing a stone into the sea,” he said. And if there was a response, there was no way for citizens to clarify it.
In 2011 Lapor (meaning ‘report’ in Bahasa Indonesia) was setup to handle complaints on the President’s priority programmes. But the team soon realised that citizens should not have to care about which programme or agency a service belongs to. “They want to submit all reports, priority or not,” Sesunan said.
A year later the scheme opened to accept complaint about any public service across the country. “Our dream is that Lapor will be the national complaint handling system with ‘No Wrong Door’ policy,” he said. The goal is that no matter what channel the citizen uses to complain, the feedback will be directed to the right agency.
How it works
Citizens can send complaints by texting 1708, on its website lapor.go.id, through its mobile app or @LAPOR1708 on Twitter. They get a unique tracking ID for each report and a notification when an official responds. Agencies are supposed to respond within five working days.
“Our dream is that Lapor will be the national complaint handling system with ‘No Wrong Door’ policy.”
In the backend, the team checks every complaint to make sure that it is clear, before dispatching it to the right agency. Every agency has a “liaison officer” responsible for getting a response internally. A dashboard tracks how many reports have been addressed and how long it took.
The unit gets 535 complaints a day on average. Currently 65% of the reports in its system have been resolved, 20% have not yet been responded to, and 15% are in-progress.
If a citizen does not get a response within five working days, Lapor’s team calls the agency’s liaison officer. If a week later there is still no progress, it sends a report to a senior official. It includes which units in the agency received the most complaints and how they were managed. In Sesunan’s experience, this usually pushes agencies to be more responsive.
Finally, if that doesn’t work, the agency can be reported to the Ombudsman of Indonesia which will investigate the case and give a binding order to the agency.
How it helps government
The Office of Presidential Staff is using data from Lapor to monitor public services, working with the United Nations’ Pulse Lab Jakarta. The lab is analysing its data with public sentiment on social media to find the strengths and weaknesses of public services, Sesunan said.
But Lapor is not just for citizens – it is also helping agencies communicate better. City officials are using it to send reports to central ministries, for instance.
Some mayors and ministers are even using it to track their officials’ performance. Minister of Law Yasonna Laoly and Bandung City Mayor Ridwan Kamil both monitor Lapor themselves, warning officials when a complaint is not responded to.
Cities which have their own complaints systems, like Jakarta’s Qlue app, can also benefit from the scheme. Last week, Jakarta’s Governor said that residents from neighbouring cities are sending complaints through Qlue, but Jakarta cannot respond to these.
This is where Lapor comes in, Sesunan said: “One of its functions is to become a hub to bridge various complaint handling systems”. The intention is “not to cut the innovation that comes from local governments, like Qlue”, but to help improve them.
Non-government organisations use it to monitor corruption cases reported to the Attorney General, Sesunan said. Lapor’s systems have also been integrated with Kawal Menteri, an initiative by volunteers to track government projects and rate ministerial performance.
The unit publishes its data on data.go.id every six months for anyone to use. This is “not really up to date”, Sesunan admits, but those interested can email the team for the latest data.
The difficult part
The “No Wrong Door” policy will only work if all ministries, provinces and cities buy into the scheme. Which is why Lapor has a place in President Joko Widodo’s office, to get commitment from every agency in the government. All Indonesian ministries are now connected to it.
While it has seen success in the central government, more progress is needed in provinces and cities. Only 6 out of over 500 local governments (provinces, cities and regencies) are using the service: Jakarta, Bandung, Indragiri Hulu, Bojonegoro, Gorontalo and Parigi Moutong, Sesunan said.
Technology and money are the least of the problems here. Lapor runs on a cloud system – officials can access it by just signing up with their email and it requires no additional budget, he explained. “Technically if I have the email addresses of the liaison officers, I can connect all government institutions in Indonesia right now,” he added.
The main reason is a lack of support from senior officials in agencies, he believes. “Not all high level officials give attention to complaint handling mechanisms.” In agencies where a senior official is involved in the project, there is more commitment towards it. “We are worried that when there is no commitment, the public trust in the system will go down,” he added.
“We are worried that when there is no commitment, the public trust in the system will go down.”
Sesunan’s team has another four years to make Lapor a national complaints system. This year they have a target to bring in 30 local governments.
The team is piloting in provinces first to cover ground faster, Sesunan said. The province in turn will invite its cities and regencies to connect.
Sesunan spent the last few weeks visiting provinces and had some success. Six new provinces agreed to come on board – Aceh, West Sumatra, West Java, Yogyakarta, Bali and South Sulawesi.
Just five years ago, Indonesians had no easy way to send feedback to their government. Now from Sumatra to Sulawesi, Lapor is helping answer hundreds of complaints every day. If it can bring in more cities and provinces, it could have a power effect on public services in Indonesia.