JAKARTA, March 9 (CNA) - The urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia, especially in terms of procuring medical supplies and rolling out social assistance packages, has heightened the risk of corruption, said a deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission.

In an exclusive interview with CNA, Mr Nurul Ghufron noted that COVID-19 has prompted the government to loosen regulations and bypass procedures in order to procure health equipment quickly as well as to roll out incentives and social aid in a timely manner.

“Even when the regulations and procedures were in place, corruption practices were bound to happen. We can imagine what happens if they are loosened. The risk of corruption is higher today because there are people who try to take advantage of loosened regulations,” he said on Mar 5.

As some government officials and public workers have been allowed to work from home during the pandemic, this has also made supervision and monitoring more difficult, said Mr Ghufron who is among the four deputy chairman of the commission.

The commission, better known by its Indonesian acronym KPK, arrested then-social affairs minister Juliari Batubara on Dec 6 for allegedly receiving 17 billion rupiah (US$1.18 million) in bribes from several companies in exchange for naming them as contractors in the ministry’s social aid distribution projects to help 20 million families.

The KPK has also made other high-profile arrests in the past year, including then-fisheries minister Edhy Prabowo and the governor of South Sulawesi, Nurdin Abdullah for separate cases of bribery. Mr Abdullah was the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Bung Hatta Anti Corruption Award.