NZ’s reputation for integrity needs active protection

Transparency International New Zealand is calling for serious and urgent action to protect and extend integrity here.

A media release says:

A landmark  report released today on International Anti-Corruption Day, by Transparency International New Zealand has revealed that serious and urgent action is needed to protect and extend integrity in this country.
 
Transparency International New Zealand Chair Suzanne Snively said, “Recent incidents and investigations of corruption, and increasing public concern, provide a compelling case for a more pro-active approach to these issues.

“Transparency International New Zealand has completed an independent and in-depth assessment of the quality of transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors, and the integrity of New Zealand’s overall governance systems.

The Report titled ‘Integrity Plus 2013 New Zealand National Integrity System Assessment’, was co-directed by Ms Snively and Murray Petrie, and was produced by a large team of independent researchers.

“An integrity system assessment takes stock of the integrity with which entrusted authority is exercised in New Zealand.
 
“Our report finds that the mechanisms that support a high integrity and high trust society, and that facilitate social and economic development, remain generally robust but are coming under increasing stress. There has been complacency in the face of increased risks”, said Ms Snively.

Mr Petrie said, “The greatest area of concern relates to political parties, and the interface between political party finances and public funding. Other key areas of weakness are the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight of the executive – there are gaps in transparency in a number of areas. 

“The report makes a large number of recommendations to strengthen transparency, accountability and integrity. These include the ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the development of a comprehensive national anti-corruption strategy.  We also recommend  strengthening  the transparency, integrity and accountability systems of Parliament, the political executive (cabinet), and the public sector.

“New Zealand would also benefit from a more pro-active approach to the prevention of fraud and corruption”, said Mr Petrie.

Transparency International’s corruption perception index consistently shows New Zealand as a country with a strong reputation for clean government but that isn’t something about which we can be complacent.

There is room for improvement and doing that must be taken seriously.

The executive summary of the report is here.

New Zealand’s national integrity system remains fundamentally strong, and New Zealand is rated highly against a broad range of cross-country transparency and good governance indicators.

 Since the first NIS assessment of New Zealand in 2003, a welcome strengthening of transparency and accountability has occurred in some areas. The assessment found that the strongest pillars in the NIS are the Office of the Auditor General, the judiciary, the Electoral Commission, and the Ombudsman.

 

The Canterbury earthquakes represented a severe test of governance systems in terms of compliance with building standards and integrity in reconstruction, and (with two tragic exceptions, the collapses of the CTV and Pyne Gould Corporation buildings), systems have generally held up well.

However, New Zealand’s national integrity system faces increasing challenges. In key areas, passivity and complacency continue. New Zealand has not ratified the UN Convention against Corruption more than 10 years after signing it, and is not fully compliant with the legal requirements of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention more than 14 years after signing it.

Areas of concern, weakness, and risk do exist; for example, the relative dominance of the political executive, shortfalls in transparency in many pillars, and inadequate efforts to build proactive strategies to enhance and protect integrity in New Zealand.

The pillar that raises issues of most concern is the political parties pillar. The core message of this report, therefore, is that it is beyond time to take the protection and promotion of integrity in New Zealand more seriously. . . .

MMP has given far more power to political parties, most of which have very few members and are not broad-based.

The issues of most concern raised in this area must be addressed.

The full report is here.

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