New Zealanders should celebrate having the world’s least-corrupt public sector as keenly as they celebrate the success of the All Blacks, says the chair of Transparency International New Zealand, Suzanne Snively.
She was speaking at a national symposium on new approaches to governance, held at Massey University’s Albany campus recently.
Snively says a colour-coded world map illustrating New Zealand’s place on the spectrum of corruption rankings should be as prized as a poster of the All Blacks.
“We need to share this map on staff rooms and living rooms around the country,” she told the gathering of governance experts from public, private and not-for-profit organisations.
New Zealand scored first-equal with Denmark with 91 out of 100 points on the Transparency International survey on perceptions of public sector corruption in 177 countries and territories around the world.
She says while many people are under the impression New Zealand has high levels of corruption due to media coverage of high level cases, those cases were few and far between in global terms.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat all corruption seriously but it is important to keep it in perspective.
It is also important that we don’t rest on our laurels. Low corruption unfortunately isn’t no corruption.
However this relatively virtuous status has not been achieved deliberately, and she urged public, private and non-governmental sector organisations to be more proactive about preventing corruption.
Recommendations for this in Transparency International New Zealand’s recently published report include improving transparency and accountability systems.
She spoke of the need to reinforce factors that sustain our integrity as a “high trust” society. Among weaknesses identified by her organisation are a lack of transparency in political party financing and donations to individual politicians.
Snively, previously a partner in Public Sector Advisory at Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ Wellington office, and a regular analyst and commentator on New Zealand’s comparative economic position for over 25 years, says a “lack of focus” on good governance could lead to “economic crimes”.
As organisations increasingly operate globally, they encounter different cultural values and practices – such as ‘facilitation payments’ – that constitute normal business methods in some countries but are considered corrupt by New Zealand standards, she says. . .
We must guard against lowering our standards to what might be considered normal elsewhere.
There are moral and financial reasons for ensuring we reduce corruption further.
It isn’t coincidence that countries with less corruption are wealthier and those where corruption is rife are poorer and with a far greater gap between rich and poor.