Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search

 


SFO passes on bulk of complaints, not worried about budget

SFO passes on more than 90% of complaints, says function isn’t compromised by lean budget

By Jonathan Underhill

Dec. 5 (BusinessDesk) – The Serious Fraud Office completed 28 investigations last year, amounting to just 6 percent of complaints received though the state agency says its ability to pursue important cases isn’t compromised by a lean budget.

Newly appointed chief executive Julie Read appeared before the law and order select committee yesterday for the SFO’s annual financial review. The corporate crime investigator is facing the end of 25 percent additional funding it got following the global financial crisis to pursue wayward finance companies.

In its latest financial year, it received 435 complaints, down from 465 in 2012. Complaints from Auckland jumped by 35 percent to 165 while those from Canterbury, where the SFO has warned of large-scale potential fraud from the earthquake rebuild, complaints jumped 200 percent to 42.

By contrast, its total 28 investigations included 20 in Auckland, double the year earlier, and just one in Christchurch. Labour MP Phil Goff, who sits on the committee, asked Read how much more the SFO could recover if it had more funding.

“It’s not a case of weeding out important cases,” Read told the committee. “Some are below our threshold and referred to other agencies, or they are unfounded.”

She said there wasn’t a correlation between the size of frauds and the size of her budget. “We’ve been able to pursue all of these matters within the scope of our current funding.”

The SFO is currently embarking on a ‘performance improvement review framework assessment’ and an expenditure review that will look at what is appropriate for the office, she said.

Still, given the funding drop, the SFO is already looking at ways to trim its costs, including squeezing staff in its Auckland head office onto a single floor. The agency is also looking at whether it can manage its work in “a more strategic way.”

In response to a statement from Goff that job cuts were inevitable, she said only that non-essential parts of the service would be cut first. The SFO had 51 staff as at June 2013, from 52 a year earlier.

Asked about the trends in its workflow, SFO general manager, evaluation and intelligence Graham Gill said there had been a significant increase in complaints, which were running at about 200 two years ago.
The other developing trend was an increase in bribery and corruption complaints, “often at a lower level, that we have seen in the past.”

The SFO recently investigated an alleged $5,000 bribe, deeming its low value wasn’t as important as the threat to New Zealand’s international reputation as a secure and transparent country to do business.

Read also defended the SFO’s handling of New Zealand’s biggest-ever fraud case, South Canterbury Finance, after charges were withdrawn against two of the five accused.

Goff questioned whether the SFO had done an effective job, saying it was “not a good look” to see the charges withdrawn.

Read said she couldn’t comment directly because the remaining three defendants were still before the courts but it was “important to take these cases before the courts, whether they are convicted or acquitted.”

(BusinessDesk)

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Interest Rates: Wheeler Hikes OCR To 3% On Inflationary Pressures, Eyes Kiwi

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler lifted the official cash rate for the second time in as many months, saying non-tradable inflationary pressures were "becoming apparent" in an economy that’s picking up pace and he's watching the impact of a strong kiwi dollar on import prices. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Equity Crowd Funding Carries Risks, High Failure Rate

Equity crowd funding, which became legal in New Zealand this month, comes with a high risk of failure based on figures showing existing forays into social capital have a success rate of less than 50 percent, one new entrant says. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: NZ Migration Rises To 11-Year High In March

The country gained a seasonally adjusted 3,800 net new migrants in March, the most since February 2003, said Statistics New Zealand. A net 400 people left for Australia in March, down from 600 in February, according to seasonally adjusted figures. More>>

ALSO:

Hugh Pavletich: New Zealand’s Bubble Economy Is Vulnerable

The recent Forbes e-edition article by Jesse Colombo assesses the New Zealand economy “ 12 Reasons Why New Zealand's Economic Bubble Will End In Disaster ”, seems to have created quite a stir, creating extensive media coverage in New Zealand. More>>

ALSO:

Thursday Market Close: Genesis Debut Sparks Energy Rally

New Zealand stock rose after shares in the partially privatised Genesis Energy soared as much as 18 percent in its debut listing on the NZX, buoying other listed energy companies in the process. Meridian Energy, MightyRiverPower, Contact Energy and TrustPower paced gains. More>>

ALSO:

Power Outages, Roads Close: Easter Storm Moving Down Country

The NZ Transport Agency says storm conditions at the start of the Easter break are making driving hazardous in Auckland and Northland and it advises people extreme care is needed on the regions’ state highways and roads... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Computer Power Plus
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Business
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news