Inbox: NZ ‘least corrupt’

New Zealand in general, and its public sector in particular, has long enjoyed reputation as one of the least corrupt in the world.
At the end of last year, the Transparency International Secretariat in Berlin (a global civil society coalition dedicated to stamping out corruption wherever it is found) released its annual Global Corruption Perceptions Index. The Index, which ranks the public sector of 176 countries across the world, has consistently shown New Zealand as country with strong reputation for clean government. For 2012, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand tied for first place helped by strong access to information systems and rules governing the behaviour of those in public positions.
Later this year, Transparency International NZ (TINZ) will publish its ‘Integrity Plus’ National Integrity System report, which looks at 12 key institutional pillars covering parliament, political parties, the executive, the judiciary, the public sector including local government, key watch-dog institutions, the media, law enforcement agencies, community and voluntary organisations and business.
“The fact that many government agencies are contributing funding to support the study indicates that the public sector also recognises the importance of maintaining high integrity society, and is not complacent about the risks to integrity in today’s more globalised world,” says TINZ chair Suzanne Snively.
“National Integrity System studies have been carried out for the last 10 years or so, in countries all around the world. We conducted study in New Zealand back in 2003 and, as with that study, we will again be going beyond narrow focus on corruption to assess New Zealand against best practice standards of transparency and accountability, taking account of our unique constitutional and cultural features. Emergent findings are beginning to be identified. For example, the Office of the Controller and Auditor General and the Ombudsman are particularly strong in terms of transparency and accountability. TINZ welcomes the just announced increased level of resourcing of the Office of the Ombudsman.”
There have been significant developments in other areas of public life since the 2003 report as well, such as the creation of the Independent Police Conduct Authority in 2007, as well as in number of areas where the 2003 Report recommended changes. These include the introduction of the State Services Commission survey of public servants, the strengthening of the governance framework of Crown Entities, the establishment of the Judicial Conduct Commission, the introduction of reporting of tax expenditures, and, updated codes of conduct for Ministers and Crown Entities in 2008. But the picture is not all positive with number of concerns raised in the 2003 report remaining unaddressed, while new areas of risk to integrity have emerged.
“In this time of budgetary restraint,” argues Snively, “as the public sector faces reductions in funding, transparency and public engagement it is more important than ever to ensure that the best choices are made about effective ways to economise and innovate so that they impact in way that improves service delivery.”
To test integrity systems, the NIS assessment includes some in-depth research into private sector organisations to assess the strength of their business ethics and processes. To compare them with the public sector, this means drilling down into specific areas such as exporting processes and financial transactions.

Do you know of any ‘anti-corruption heroes’?
Transparency International is now accepting nominations for its 2013 Integrity Awards. Launched in 2000, the awards recognise the courage and determination of individuals and groups taking remarkable steps to combat corruption.
Past winners include investigative journalists, whistleblowers and citizens’ groups. They have sparked the arrest of corrupt leaders, exposed record-breaking tax scams and shown integrity in the most extreme circumstances.
The deadline for nominations is 15 June 2013. See for more information. M

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