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New Zealand keeps its reputation as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, but there are concerns about the private sector's lack of awareness about corruption, Transparency International said on releasing its 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index.
New Zealand, which held the top spot alone in 2009, ranked equal with Denmark and Singapore after its score slipped slightly to 9.3 out of 10, compared with 9.4 last year.
"Bummer for Warner Brothers leaning on NZ for more subsidies for The Hobbit," quipped entrepreneur Sam Morgan on Twitter as the news was announced. He was joking, of course.
The index measures the perception of corruption among public officials and politicians. It does not take into account private sector attitudes when conducting business here and overseas.
"Whilst the result is pleasing, there is no room for complacency," Transparency International NZ director Alex Tan said.
"We note that in April this year the Serious Fraud Office announced an investigation into serious allegations of corruption at a public entity."
In April, ACC referred matters of concern about a staff member, who had been dismissed, to the SFO.
Companies' complacency about corruption was a concern, with less than half of listed companies explicitly prohibiting bribery and corruption, and even fewer prohibiting "facilitation" payments.
NZ businesses naive in dealing with foreigners
"We believe there is a real risk that New Zealand organisations do not take the risks of bribery and corruption seriously when operating offshore," Mr Tan said.
Under the Crimes Act 1961, it is an offence for New Zealand entities, citizens or residents to bribe a foreign official, but New Zealand has been criticised for never recording a conviction for such an offence.
"We know that New Zealand organisations operating overseas are sometimes under pressure to make inappropriate payments in order to obtain or retain business," he said.
"The use of overseas agents also presents a significant risk which is often overlooked."
New Zealand needed to follow the growing trend overseas to introduce legislation to strictly control both domestic and foreign corruption, including the use of agents.
Transparency International also wanted the Government to tighten up laws and regulations about combating bribery and corruption.
New Zealand signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in 2003, but was one of only 18 countries not to have ratified it, he said.
Occupying the bottom four places in the global index were Somalia, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Iraq.
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