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Back to training for New Zealand as Denmark takes out integrity gold

Posted by | Governance and accountability | Dec 04, 2014
Like most Kiwis, I like gold. I like it when we win and I remember our winners.

TINZWhen our super-shooter Sally Johnston brought home a Commonwealth Games gold medal, it felt good to see her glowing in the golden aura of international accolades.

Today, Transparency International announced that New Zealand had placed second on the 2014 Anti-Corruption Perceptions index, displacing us from the first or first-equal spot we have held on the integrity podium since 2006. Still shiny, still valuable – just not gold. There’s just one point between first and second – but I couldn’t tell you who was runner-up to Sally.

Being second to Denmark isn’t a disgrace by any means and, to be fair, they’ve been working hard for the title in the last few years. A solid integrity performer, Denmark has matched us at first-equal for several years, and we’re both still well ahead of many of the 175 counties assessed by the index.

Should we care? The message from this Office is clear – yes. We really should. Internationally, many see integrity as a marginal and old-fashioned sport in which only a few countries (like New Zealand and Denmark) are interested enough to field teams. A bit like rugby and cricket, integrity is one aspect that characterises us as a people and it’s embedded in our identity – although perhaps less consciously than we realise. Who remembers verses two and four of our national anthem, which remind us to guard our state from corruption and our spotless name from dishonour and shame?

The Auditor-General has a strong message about integrity – whether we’re number one or in second place – we need to work hard and be vigilant, as people, and as a public sector to maintain New Zealand’s good and strong record. In 2011, the Auditor-General published a series of reports on Keeping fraud at bay. We said that our general absence of systemic large-scale corruption in both the private and public sectors is attributed to the integrity of our system. And it’s underpinned by strong and shared common values within a small and cohesive society.

The index is not just about what we as a country do what others do matters as well. Denmark is proactive, recently announcing plans to create a public register including beneficial ownership information for all companies incorporated in Denmark. Transparency International says this will make it harder for the corrupt to hide behind companies registered in another person’s name.

New Zealand has much in common with Denmark, including strong rule of law, support for civil society and clear rules governing the behaviour of those in public positions. The New Zealand chapter of Transparency International considers that our failure to ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption counted against us this year.

But integrity is like a diamond (which, incidentally, looks very good with gold). It’s rare hard to get. And diamonds sparkle multifaceted light in every direction. There are many facets to integrity and much that we can all do to strengthen our integrity. It’s not just about signing conventions, it’s about living values. And that’s something we all have a responsibility to do.

So Denmark wins this round. Congratulations to them – they’ve earned it. But integrity is an endurance sport and we should be in there for the long haul.

We can take a lesson from Sally Johnston. She won bronze at her first Commonwealth Games appearance in 1998. And she kept training and competing at top level to bring home Commonwealth gold in 2014. It's the same for us. You don’t quit when it comes to something as important as this.

Karen says:
Feb 05, 2015 08:56 PM
I can't understand why you would be surprised after all that has happened in NZ the last 3 or more years. Our country has become a dirty filthy little hole for corrupt money laundering criminals. And at Davos we here more are heading our way so don't count on being first for a very long time for I think this country will drop even further before we come back up again.
Penny Bright
Penny Bright says:
Feb 05, 2015 10:44 PM
Pity New Zealand's corruption REALITY doesn't match the 'perception'?



1. Get our anti-corruption domestic legislative framework in place so NZ can ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption.
2. Set up an NZ independent anti-corruption body tasked with educating the public and PREVENTING corruption.
3. Change NZ laws to ensure genuine transparency in the funding of candidates for elected public office and political parties at
    central and local government level.
4. Legislate for an enforceable ‘Code of Conduct’ for NZ Members of Parliament (who make the rules for everyone else).
5. Make it an offence under the Local Government Act 2002 for NZ Local Government elected representatives to breach their
    ‘Code of Conduct’.
6. Make it a lawful requirement for a publicly-available ‘Register of Interests’ for NZ Local Government elected representatives.
7. Make it a lawful requirement for a publicly-available ‘Register of Interests’ for NZ Central Government staff responsible for
    property and procurement, (including the Ministry of Health), in order to help prevent ‘conflicts of interest’.
8. Make it a lawful requirement for a publicly-available ‘Register of Interests’ for NZ Local Government staff, and Directors and
    staff employed by ‘Council-Controlled Organisations (CCOs) responsible for property and procurement.
9. Make it a lawful requirement for details of ‘contracts issued’ – including the name of the contractor; scope, term and value of
    the contract to be published in NZ Central Government Public Sector, and Local Government (Council), and ‘CouncilControlled
    Organisation (CCO) Annual Reports so that they are available for public scrutiny.
10. Make it a lawful requirement that a ‘cost-benefit analysis’ of NZ Central Government, and Local Government public finances
    be undertaken to prove that private procurement of public services previously provided ‘in-house’ is cost-effective for the
    public majority. If not – then return public service provision to staff directly employed ‘in-house’ and cut out these private
    contractors who are effectively dependent on ‘corporate welfare’.
11. Legislate for a legally-enforcable ‘Code of Conduct’ for members of the NZ Judiciary, to ensure they are not ‘above the law’.
12. Ensure that ALL NZ Court proceedings are recorded, and audio records made available to parties who request them.
13. Make it a lawful requirement for a publicly-available NZ Judicial ‘Register of Interests’, to help prevent ‘conflicts of
14. Make it a lawful requirement for a publicly-available NZ ‘Register of Lobbyists’ and ‘Code of Conduct for Lobbyists’ at Central
    Government Ministerial level.
15. Make it a lawful requirement at NZ Central and Local Government level for a ‘post-separation employment quarantine’ period
    from the time officials leave the public service to take up a similar role in the private sector. (Help stop the ‘revolving
16. Make it a lawful requirement that it is only a binding vote of the public majority that can determine whether public assets
    held at NZ Central or Local Government level are sold; or long-term leased via Public-Private –Partnerships (PPPs).
17. Make it unlawful for politicians to knowingly misrepresent their policies prior to election at central or local government level.
18. Make laws to protect individuals, NGOs and community-based organisations who are ‘whistleblowing’ against ‘conflicts of
    interest’ and corrupt practices at central and local government level and within the judiciary.
19. Legislate to help stop ‘State Capture’, a form of ‘grand corruption’ arguably endemic in NZ – where vested interests get their
    way at the ‘policy level’ before legislation is passed which serves their interests.

Penny Bright

Attendee: 2009 Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference
Attendee: 2010 Transparency International Anti-Corruption Conference
Attendee: 2013 Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference
Attendee: 2014 G20 Anti-Corruption Conference

2013 Auckland Mayoral candidate - polled 4th with 11,723 votes
admin says:
Mar 05, 2015 07:02 PM
Hi, Admin here. This is clearly a topic that stirs up strong views. We've not been able to publish all the comments because some have been out of step with the goals of our moderation policy - see for more info...
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