Towards the end of 2011 the owners of Menara Kuningan contacted TBI and told them that there would be a massive rent increase for 2012. They would have to pay a whopping Rp 700.000.000 rupiah more for the premises in 2012 than they had in 2011. For those not used to Indonesian rupiah, this amounted to an increase of between $70,000 and $75,000 overnight. Now $75,000 is surely not a small chunk of cash for any Indonesian business, but in the case of TBI Kuningan, it was especially large. This amount was equal to around 10% of total revenue for 2011, so it was obviously going to put a big dint in profits in 2012. Profits are incredibly hard to calculate at TBI Kuningan due to the murky accounting and massive tax evasion, but this rent increase probably would have amounted to at least a quarter to a third of all profits. The steep rent increase was thought to be partly motivated by the fact that the other tenants in the building didn’t particularly like TBI: all those noisy kids weren’t too popular with the building management or the corporate set generally.
When Cameron told me this, I asked him why TBI didn’t move premises and search for more affordable property. Cam said he had spoken to Luke Preece (the degreeless con-man who has styled himself as a ‘education management expert’! and Luke had told him that TBI just didn’t have the cash available to make a move. Most commercial property types wanted several years’ rent upfront and TBI just didn’t have this sort of money available. As usual, money was tight. Ibu Ning had been sucking the coffers dry like some kind of vampire to set up UIC for her own children.
This was not the only sign of a shortage of capital which Cam saw while in charge of TBI Sudirman and Kuningan either. During 2011 TBI Kuningan was deluged with customer complaints about the slowness of the computers and the poor quality of the furniture. Cameron was repeatedly turned down by USG in his requests to do much needed repairs and upgrading. Far from what Luke Preece would have you believe, Cameron already had a reputation for being an outspoken promoter of customer rights over USG greed while inside the company. He eventually got new furniture one piece at a time and charged it to petty cash to get around USG pigheadedness and greed. When he complained about their the poor quality of equipment at TBI he was told that Ning Anhar was using all the money for her kids’ school, so TBI students were a low priority. There was no money left after it had been siphoned off for nepotistic projects.
There were numerous times when bills were paid late by USG, even for simple things like power and telephone services, and at one point the phone lines were cut off for 2 days due to USG’s failure to manage their bills properly. At times support staff were paid their Lebaran bonuses late too, with all of this being put down to cash-flow problems at Head Office.
In short, late payment of bills, late payment of staff, lack of funds to repair and upgrade basic infrastructure, and a lack of capital to move premises when the building owners gauged them on the rent increases all point to a company with serious cash flow problems- even at a time of bumper revenue. Apart from all its other problems, TBI’s finances are a mess.