One of the strange things that started happening at TBI in 2011 and intensified in 2012 was the relationship which developed between Jalaludin Japri and Firlana Ismayadin, the former Marketing Officer. This relationship had even started to be the subject of much speculation among TBI teachers by 2012.
Here is a typical incident or story. One teacher reported being in the staffroom one day when Firlana was using the photocopier to photocopy a bunch of documents. Firlana had said that they were for the visa and immigration papers of one of the teachers. So the teacher had a look at the papers, which Firlana had left lying around for some time. None of the documents were anything to do with TBI or its teachers of staff. They all related to employees of another Indonesian copany. In short, Firlana was doing work for someone who wasn’t TBI. He then went off to Jalaludin Japri’s office with these documents that had nothing to do with TBI. This really annoyed the teacher as this was at a period when TBI Kelapa Gading was falling apart in mid-2012 and the teacher was angry that Firlana was working for Japri at the same time as he was neglecting his supposed duties at TBI.
Who were these people that appeared in the documents? Why did Firlana spend so much time at Japri’s office? Why did Japri insist that Firlana stay on even after I had sent dozens of emails proving that Firlana had failed to do his job-list, and lied about his shocking record of absenteeism. Why did Firlana not do his own job? Why was he always making calls that had something to do with Japri’s other businesses? This teacher like me was angry that Firlana- the supposed Office Supervisor- had let things fall apart in the school and prioritized some mysterious other business.
It seems puzzling if you think that Japrie would have wanted Firlana to make TBI a success, but as we have been arguing in recent weeks, some of these franchise owners- Japri foremost amongst them- have very little interest in TBI actually. Perhaps it is really just a front to launder coal or palm-oil money. This explains why Japrie never once asked me about any organizational matters in the school. Not once. He wasn’t interested. The only time that he even discussed the school at all was when he was telling me it wasn’t making enough money- and then producing fake data to try and back up his claims- which he was eventually forced to retract as false when I proved his data was wrong.
Sutanto had warned me not to be rude to Japri as he was an important man in the palm-oil indsutry who employed 50.000 people. When I asked Japri why he was interested in TBI at all he froze and couldn’t give me any explanation at all. The real reason he refused to do proper accounts, get a debit-card machine, get a credit-card machine, give tax reports to teachers or anything else was that he was determined not to create a paper record of the business. He didn’t care about the piddling amount of money TBI made. He just cared about his other businesses, and he wanted to make sure he could continue ‘washing’ his palm oil proceeds in TBI. Firlana was always spying for Japri on what went on inside the school and spend most of his time doing tasks for Japri that had nothing to do with TBI at all, meaning he was a drag on TBI.
Japri doesn’t actually own Teladan Prima it seems. But once I researched the matter, he was referred to as the Head of Human Resources, meaning he was involved in the recrruiting and oversight of 50.000 employees at least. Remember too that the extractive industries- palm-oil and coal- have been reported by anti-corruption groups as the most corrupt in all Indonesia in terms of money laundering and tax avoidance. So here we have a guy managing a large plantation company with tens of thousands of employees who has no actual interest in how I run the school or academics but absolutely insists that no one see the finances of the books. He refuses to get any kind of electronic payment system which would leave an electronic ‘trail’ and he refuses to get an accountant to make financial reports in a business with $20,000 revenue a month. From 2010-2011 no financial reports were made for TBI Kelapa Gading at all. In this period almost $400,000 passed through the till and not even basic financial statements were produced. I just kept telling Head Office that the owners were refusing to make them and to contact the owners directly for the data they were requesting.
TBI Kelapa Gading always stank of corruption. But it wasn’t until 10 months before I left that I realized the likely explanation. It was owned by an immensely wealthy man who owned vast plantation holdings of palm-oil during a protracted boom in that industry. This same man absolutely refused any financial oversight or records of TBI Kelapa Gading, and he de-registered the original company which owned it, PT. Dian Harapan Prima, when questions started to be asked by corporate clients about tax law compliance. TBI Kelapa Gading was always a front for Japri’s palm oil money. An entirely cash business despite its sizeable revenue, it needed special handling. Japri needed one of his own men in there keeping an eye on things. Firlana was always loyal to Japri and really didn’t give a toss about Kelapa Gading, as shown by his extended absences and rotten work ethic. In the end, we decided that it just wasn’t worth the effort to work hard to grow a school for this kind of man. But it surely raises serious suscpisions about the whole ‘reason for being’ of the entire franchise network. On this theme, we will re-visit the bankrupt TBI Cengkareng tomorrow.