One of the things that we spent a lot of time establishing in the first year of this blog was that TBI was actually under the umbrella of USG (UniSadhuGuna), a murky organization which was led by Ning Anhar. We cited the nepotism, incompetence and cronyism of Ibu Ning as one of the main reasons that TBI had performed so badly. While TBI’s 10 franchise schools were mostly mismanaged basket cases (TBI Bekasi being the scariest example of all), their group schools were big money-makers. For example, in late 2011 TBI Kuningan had revenue of over 800 million a month (around $80,000 at the prevailing exchange rate.) Even after gouging USG “management fees” had been taken out, the profits were still substantial. That school was making around $25,000- $30,000 profit a month, and whoever was getting those enormous “management fees” was making a real killing. Though it had performed very badly under Chris Needham, from 2010 onwards TBI Fatmawati was a money-maker too. And their two big schools in Bandung, TBI Dago and TBI Riau (formerly TBI Jalan Jawa) were also cash cows (though nowhere near as profitable as TBI Kuningan). Yet as we revealed (this information was not widely known before), there was a big problem, and its name was UniSadhuGuna (Sanskrit for Noble Scholar!)
The Ignoble Scholar
USG, TBI’s parent, was sucking TBI dry, using it as a source of funds for nepotistic projects involving the friends/children/ relatives of the board members of Uni SadhuGuna. In other words, USG was a complete misnomer, and far from being a noble scholar, USG was a garden-variety Order Baru (New Order regime-era) company. It was up to its eyeballs in the commonest sins of the “bad old Indonesia”: korupsi, kolusi dan nepotisme (corruption, collusion, and nepotism). The most egregious example we were informed about was Ibu Ning using TBI money to set up the UIC Design School for her daughter.
During 2011 TBI schools were starved of funds for even common repairs (yes, they were actually denied to right to paint over dirty walls or replace broken chairs). TBI Kuningan was making $30,000 a month in profits by the second half of the year, but a $30 paint of tin was deemed an unacceptable expense. This was because all the money was being shoveled to UIC, a school that had less than 20 enrolments for its first semester. In a complete perversion of normal business reasoning, the 650 students at TBI Kuningan were deemed less important than the 12 enrolments at UIC Design School. UIC got brand new Apple Macintosh computers and state-of-the art classrooms while TBI Kuningan students were told, “Sorry, but you’ll have to make do with 10 year computers that are slow as Jakarta traffic.”
If anyone asked how this made sense, eyes would be rolled and it was said that Ibu Ning had deemed that her daughter’s school got all the money; there was no point arguing. In short, USG was sucking TBI dry, even though TBI was generating the vast majority of the income. Not only was a classic case of business nepotism, but it was nuts from a business standpoint too, and everyone “in the loop” knew it. But Ibu Ning was in charge, so there was nothing anyone could do. Everyone at TBI Head Office was terrified of the moods of Ibu Ning and bend over backwards to please her. She was known to be highly narcissistic and vindictive and anyone who displeased her was in danger of getting the axe. The TBI Director herself was briefly deposed in mid-2011 for displeasing Ibu Ning. If not even Ibu Mariam could rest easy around Ning, then truly no one was safe. In summary, what we described was a highly corrupt, nepotistic and inefficient company where money from profitable businesses was being squandered on loss-making vanity projects. USG-TBI had become a basket case.
The New TBI: PT. Titian Buana Ilmu
Yet we can now report that with the retirement of Ning Anhar (who has now turned 80), the situation has changed. TBI has now, finally, gained a modicum of independence from USG. Whereas it was long registered as part of a yayasan (charity) in a shady tax dodge, TBI is now a registered PT. (company). In short, the dream of Mariam and Luke to get independence from the leeches at USG has finally happened. This, Luke Preece had long told us, was his dream for TBI. He thought that after Ning was removed from the equation, TBI had a chance of finally getting free and becoming a more legitimate organization. Luke and Mariam were discussing TBI becoming a PT. 3 or 4 years ago. It seems that their plan has finally come to fruition. TBI is no longer a murky charity that does no charitable works; its new identity is PT. Titian Buana Ilmu. Who knows, they might even start paying income tax now! But as we will continue to show on this blog, the more things change at TBI, the more they remain just the same.