Despite only two of the four advertised guests attending - Donal Fariz from Indonesia Corruption Watch and Amien Sunaryadi from the World Bank - it was useful to get some understanding of the challenges faced in combatting corruption in one of the world's most corrupt large countries.
The panellists were confident that the right systems had been put in place to tackle corruption, but the challenge was for them to be properly implemented. The panellists talked of powers that have been granted to corruption-busting bodies, primarily the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi, that hadn't been utilised.
In some cases, instances of corruption were being dealt with by offenders merely having to repay their illgotten gains - hardly a penalty likely to discourage people from trying their luck.
I asked the panellists whether part of the problem was that corruption was so endemic in Indonesian society that there was no longer public outrage at examples of corruption. They seemed to agree with the sentiment, and suggested that public enthusiasm for honest governance was an important part of eradicating corruption. As to how to achieve that, ideas were scant.
Afterwards, I spoke to a researcher who had been coming to Indonesia for 15 years. He said he remembered coming to similar forums in the late 1990s, where experts would piously talk about the need to thwart corruption, but there was little result.
Hopefully we won't be having the same discussion in 15 years time.
UPDATE 19/5 - This post prompted me to think back to a really clever proposal for combatting corruption I read a little while ago.
From Cafe Salemba:
I think it is good to have competition amongst anti-corruption squads or law enforcers. Think this way: a corruptor can bribe the police, but, in competition, the general attorney office or KPK will still be more than willing to arrest him/her - and vice versa.
Now you may want to say: what if the corruptor bribe them all? It's possible, but at least it is now more expensive to do so than with single anti-corruption office. The competition raises the corruptor's cost of wrongdoing and make anti-corruption more efficient.
And some follow-up discussion at The Chronicles of a Capitalist Lawyer and back at Cafe Salemba.