Which political party takes the best stance on corruption?

CONWAY POWELL: While all the major parties responded, the TINZ director says some answered better than others

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 (NBR has published a sample below, with the full responses published online).

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.

Go onto the regular NBR ONLINE to view the full survey and related video.

 

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