No tolerance for corruption

January 2, 2014

Friends from overseas opened a bank account here.

It was going to take a couple of days before it was activated by which time they were going to be somewhere else.

The teller said if they left the money with them she’d deposit it as soon as the account was activated.

They had no hesitation in giving her the money but said if they’d been in their own country they wouldn’t have trusted the bank staff.

We take such honesty for granted here but it isn’t something about which we can be complacent.

In Monday’s ODT (not online) Bob Jones recounted examples of corruption he’d encountered around the world and concluded:

. . . I mention all this given the outrageously light sentence of nine months’ home detention accord on utterly specious grounds to Christchurch policeman Gordon Stanley Meyer. Offering to trade fines for sexual favours is not simply sleazy, as the judge seemed to view it. It’s about a principle which is absolute, regardless of its nature or monetary dimension, It behoves the police commissioner to appeal this ridiculous sentence so that wiser heads can send a vitally important message, namely the corruption is corrosive, strikes at the heart of civil society and will absolutely not be tolerated.

New Zealand has regularly tops Transparency International’s index as the least corrupt country in the world.

The only way to stay there is to ensure no tolerance for corruption.

UPDATE: the column is now on-line at the NZ Herald.


Denmark, Finland and New Zealand 1 = least corrupt

December 6, 2012

Denmark, Finland and New Zealand tied in first place in Transparency  International’s Global Corruption Perceptions Index.

While welcoming this recognition for New Zealand, the local chapter of Transparency International is promising that its newly launched National Integrity System assessment will provide a much more nuanced and detailed report on the country’s vulnerability to corruption.

“Our ambitious National Integrity System Assessment will give the most detailed answer yet to the question, ‘What factors cause New Zealand to rank consistently at the top?'” Says Suzanne Snively Chair of TINZ and NIS Steering Group Co-Chair.

Snively continues, “The NIS assessment is more ambitious and comprehensive than any previously conducted. The strong support we are receiving through funding agencies and participants indicates a commitment on the part of New Zealanders to remain a high trust society. New Zealanders are recognizing that not only is this ranking a source of pride, it represents a significant competitive advantage and economic benefits for New Zealand business.”

Lack of corruption is something most of us take for granted.

It’s usually not until we travel to other countries where the institutions and people can’t be trusted as they can be here that we understand and appreciate the value of integrity.

We met the head of an international bank a few month ago and were discussing which countries it operates in.

We asked if it had plans to do business in a couple of countries in South America.

His answer was swift – no, you couldn’t be sure you’d get your money back.

New Zealand’s high trust society is both a national treasure and an economic asset. Forbes magazine ranks New Zealand first on its most recent list of the Best Countries for Business thanks to a transparent and stable business climate. According to Phil O’Reilly Chief Executive of Business New Zealand “New Zealand’s high trust public sector is it’s greatest competitive advantage.”

We need inward investment and we’re far more likely to get it than other countries where transparency, stability and trust are less common.


Transparency International co-founder dies

August 30, 2012

Jeremy Pope, ONZM (1938-2012) who was the co-founder of Transparency International has died.

At Transparency International (TI), Pope co-created the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which identified best and worst practices related to corruption and ranked countries accordingly. He wrote the international organization’s “manual” on preventing corruption entitled Confronting Corruption: The Elements of a National Integrity System, which was translated into more than 20 different languages.

A barrister in New Zealand and England, Pope worked for 17 years as legal counsel and then director of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Legal Division. He was secretary to the Commonwealth Observer Group that oversaw Zimbabwe’s independence elections in 1980 and was a member of the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons that visited South Africa in 1986 and triggered the release of Nelson Mandela.

Pope wrote guide books about New Zealand in the early 1970s and 1980s with his wife, Diana. During the 1970s he was active with the “Save Manapouri” environmental movement in New Zealand. He was for many years editor of the New Zealand Law Journal and the Commonwealth Law Bulletin.

When Pope moved to London in the 1970s, he kept close touch with New Zealand events, advising on international solutions including in relation to the South African Rugby Tour. In 1982 he became the founding trustee of Interights, which is an international human rights NGO.

In 2007, Jeremy was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for “services to international affairs.” He served as a Commissioner on the New Zealand Human Rights Commission (Te Kāhui Tika Tangata) from 31 January 2008 until his death. . .

Corruption is a plague and one of the weapons needed to fight it is transparency.

The world is a better place for the work of Mr Pope.


NZ still least corrupt

December 2, 2011

New Zealand has again topped Transparency International’s Corruptions Perception Index as the country perceived to have the least corrupt public service in the world.

New Zealand scored 9.5 out of 10 in the index:

The index scores 183 countries and territories from 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean) based on perceived levels of public sector corruption. It uses data from 17 surveys that look at factors such as enforcement of anti-corruption laws, access to information and conflicts of interest.

Two thirds of ranked countries score less than 5.

New Zealand ranks first, followed by Finland and Denmark. Somalia and North Korea (included in the index for the first time), are last.

“2011 saw the movement for greater transparency take on irresistible momentum, as citizens around the world demand accountability from their governments. High-scoring countries show that over time efforts to improve transparency can, if sustained, be successful and benefit their people,” said Transparency International Managing Director, Cobus de Swardt.

Most Arab Spring countries rank in the lower half of the index, scoring below 4. Before the Arab Spring, a Transparency International report on the region warned that nepotism, bribery and patronage were so deeply engrained in daily life that even existing anti-corruption laws had little impact.

Eurozone countries suffering debt crises, partly because of public authorities’ failure to tackle the bribery and tax evasion that are key drivers of debt crisis, are among the lowest-scoring EU countries.

Corruption costs and hurts individuals, economies and societies.

We can, as Tony Ryall says, be proud of the ranking and the people who earned it, but we can’t be complacent.


Relatively better isn’t the same as good

November 19, 2009

New Zealand tops Transparency International’s 2009 corruption perception index.

The others in the top 10 are: Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands and Australia, Canada and Iceland which are 8th equal.

The countries at the bottom are: Chad, Iraq, Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Corruption is a form of oppression and this map shows how widespread it is:

While it’s good to be relatively good, what really matters is not how good we are perceived to be relative to anyone else but how good we are fullstop.

A score of 9.4 does mean we’re perceived to be pretty good.

That makes it more likely that other countries and other people will trust us and our institutions.

But we need to be vigilant to ensure that reality matches the perception.

Hat tip: Poneke.


MPs’ expenses need independent oversight

October 14, 2009

Independent oversight is needed to implement and control rules over MPs’ expenses an expert on political corruption says.

New Zealand is one of the least corrupt nations in the world, but MPs are in danger of maintaining a perception of impropriety by insisting on controlling the rules surrounding expenses themselves, corruption watchdog Transparency International founder Jeremy Pope told NZPA.

He said we should be grateful that New Zealand politicians don’t fall into the ‘rob the public purse blind’ category.

“The present debate needs to be informed that we are goodies and not baddies in all of this.”

But the real problem lay in the absence of accountability, he said.

“Politicians are seen as being accountable to themselves. They have a system that they worked out for themselves and it is administered by the Speaker who is one of themselves.”

While that system could work perfectly well, the public could focus on no independent element in place to keep accountability in check, he said.

Separate handling of allowances would provide protection for the politicians.

“Whether (corruption) is happening or not, it’s important that the issue is really put behind the politicians so they can get on with running the country.

“I think simply to wait for the controversies to die down and feel they’ve gone away — they will only come back again because that is the nature of these things.” The MPs might be playing by the rules, but that was no reason not to change the system, Mr Pope said.

It’s not that MPs are breaking rules, it’s that they set them which is the problem.

An independent body might not make any change to the allowances MPs get and the way they get them. All MPs need offices and many need a second home because of their jobs. The allowances they get now may well provide the best value for taxpayers without putting MPs at a financial disadvantage.

But if a separate body made the rules and oversaw the payments of allowances we could be reassured that the rules are fair and that expenses met from the public purse are reasonable.

Independent oversight might not make MPs’ expenses any more palatable for much of the public but at least it would allay doubts about them.


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