Political parties struggle with corruption test

While all the major parties responded, TINZ director Conway Powell says some answered better than others

TINZ director Conway Powell evaluates political parties' anti-corruption policy.

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International surveys frequently place New Zealand as the least corrupt country in the world but that’s no reason to be complacent, an anti-corruption watchdog says.

To that end, Transparency International New Zealand is using the election campaign to entice the main political parties to state their intentions when it comes to transparency, anti-corruption and protection for whistleblowers.

The organisation asked each party to respond in 50 words or less to six questions (Scroll down for link to the full set of responses).

TINZ director Conway Powell says while all the major parties responded, some answered better than others.

“Some parties didn’t understand some of the background to the questions, in some cases the answers were brief, while others engaged a lot more and made a sensible response.”

The National Party’s answers reflected limited knowledge, which was surprising given its record in government over the past three terms.

Dr Powell says many aspects of Labour and the Green Party’s responses were good.

TINZ’s objective, he says, is to let the public see what the parties had to say but also, after the election, to hold the incoming government to what they said.

Apathy the biggest danger
The biggest threat to New Zealand’s standing is apathy, Dr Powell says.

“We’ve actually come out at No 1 or close to No 1 for quite some time but then major cases come up that remind us we cannot really rest on our laurels.”

He cited the case of former Transport Ministry manager Joanne Harrison, who was convicted and sentenced in February to more than three and a half years in prison for stealing nearly $750,000.

In July the government apologised to the whistleblowers turfed out of the Transport Ministry after alerting bosses of Harrison’s fraud.

In another case, former Auckland Transport senior manager Murray Noone and Projenz managing director Stephen Borlase were sentenced to five years and five years six months respectively after being found guilty of bribery and corruption.

“So from our point of view we wanted to make this a major opportunity to ask the parties what their intent is,” Dr Powell says.

The questionnaire follows comments by the visiting head of anti-corruption group Transparency International that New Zealand’s political party financing should be made more transparent.

José Ugaz, who was special state attorney in a major case against former Peruvian president Albert Fujimori, said although New Zealand placed first equal with Denmark in Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, there is no room for complacency.

Mr Ugaz told NBR View’s Susan Wood that introducing more openness for political financing should be one of the key priorities for New Zealand, along with more investigation into properties bought by wealthy offshore buyers. 

Although New Zealand may not have the same level of corruption as countries in Latin America or Asia, he says living in a global world means every country is susceptible to money laundering, offshore companies, and illicit flows.

TINZ’s questions also provide a lead into its 2017 New Zealand Finance Integrity System Assessment, which is designed to gain detailed information about how the financial system identifies and seeks to prevent corruption, reinforces core ethical values and strengthens integrity systems.

The assessment is expected to be published in February.

See the full set of responses here.

RELATED VIDEO: Political party financing should be more transparent, Jose Ugaz tells NBR View's Susan Wood (Jul 28)

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4 Comments & Questions

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NZ doesn't deserve the No 1 ranking as the country seems to turn a blind eye to corruption or legitimize it

A bit like our clean green image - a mirage

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Correct.the national party has been captured by the banks.one can easily observe this fact by looking at the deficient regulation of the finance sector whereby all clients interests are put first but the clients of vertically integrated organisations are put less first than clients of non integrated organisations.a truly Orwellian concept originated simply to permit the banks to execute their flawed business model.

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We most certainly do not deserve the "number One" ranking.
I have knowledge of two district health boards in which senior staff members were suspended form their duties for several months, then allowed to "resign for heath reasons" or "retire with our thanks for their many years of service", in both cases with generous golden handshakes.
No criminal investigations and no prosecutions, so the cases do not get into any statistics and so don't spoil the pretty picture , although co-workers generally know what has been going on and hear the message that corruption is tolerated and even rewarded if subtle enough not to be easily proven.

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I was invited to, and attended the World Justice Project 2017 International 'Rule of Law' Forum at The Hague (10-13 July 2017), as a NZ 'Rule of Law' expert.

The 'NZ whistle-blower' was what I was known as.

My opening comments at the first workshop I attended was that I was Penny Bright, anti-privatisation / anti-corruption campaigner from NZ, which was 'perceived' to be 'the least corrupt country in the world' according to the Transparency International 2016 'Corruption Perception Index'.

IMO, NZ was actually a corrupt, polluted tax haven - a 'banana republic without the bananas', and the Transparency International 'Corruption Perception Index' should be screwed up and thrown into the rubbish bin of history.

When Jose Ugaz visited NZ, (within a couple of weeks of my 'whistle-blowing' at The Hague), I attended his Wellington meeting on 1 August 2017 at Rutherford House, Victoria University, and at question time, stated to his face, exactly what I had said at The Hague.

Evidence I provided to substantiate my considered opinion, as someone who has now attended 6 International Anti-Corruption Conferences, listened to and met the experts, read voluminous material, and 'put my mind' to the NZ corruption 'reality' - was my one A4 page 'Transparency and Accountability Action Plan'.

Which was very well-received, especially amongst the over 300 International Rule of Law experts, from 75 countries at The Hague.

Penny Bright
2017 Independent candidate for Tamaki.

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