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Corruption-free status as vital as All Blacks success

Corruption-free status as vital as All Blacks success

New Zealanders should celebrate having the world’s least-corrupt public sector as keenly as they celebrate the success of the All Blacks, says the chair of Transparency International New Zealand, Suzanne Snively.

She was speaking at a national symposium on new approaches to governance, held at Massey University’s Albany campus recently.

Snively says a colour-coded world map illustrating New Zealand’s place on the spectrum of corruption rankings should be as prized as a poster of the All Blacks.

“We need to share this map on staff rooms and living rooms around the country,” she told the gathering of governace experts from public, private and not-for-profit organisations.

New Zealand scored first-equal with Denmark with 91 out of 100 points on the Transparency International survey on perceptions of public sector corruption in 177 countries and territories around the world.

She says while many people are under the impression New Zealand has high levels of corruption due to media coverage of high level cases, those cases were few and far between in global terms.

However this relatively virtuous status has not been achieved deliberately, and she urged public, private and non-governmental sector organisations to be more proactive about preventing corruption.

Recommendations for this in Transparency International New Zealand’s recently published report include improving transparency and accountability systems.

She spoke of the need to reinforce factors that sustain our integrity as a “high trust” society. Among weaknesses identified by her organisation are a lack of transparency in political party financing and donations to individual politicians.

Snively, previously a partner in Public Sector Advisory at Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ Wellington offfice, and a regular analyst and commentator on New Zealand's comparative economic position for over 25 years, says a “lack of focus” on good governance could lead to “economic crimes”.

As organisations increasingly operate globally, they encounter different cultural values and practices – such as ‘facilitation payments’ – that constitute normal business methods in some countries but are considered corrupt by New Zealand standards, she says.

Titled Redefining Governance for the new New Zealand, the one-day event brought together diverse experts and thought leaders with experience in governance,including Alastair Bisley (chair of the Land and Water Forum), David Shand (public sector reformer and a member of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance), Grant Taylor (Auckland Council’s governance director), and Dave Hansford (award-winning photographer and environmental journalist).

Keynote speaker and Massey’s Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey discussed proposed changes to the governance arrangements of universities, which would see university councils reduced in size and representation.

He said the issue centred on the question of whether universities should be run as businesses working to an agenda, or public organisations which valued academic freedom and their role as society’s critic and conscience.

“Whether we’re talking about universities, post-settlement policies, the governance of fresh water resources, corporate governance or international arrangements – the tensions between ‘getting things done’ and ensuring accountability to stakeholders is of central concern,” he says.

Round the table discussions on a range of governance issues produced a raft of ideas, including the need to define more clearly what 'co-governance' means in Treaty settlements; the need to continue the trust-building process that Auckland Council has undergone after the unification of local bodies; and the need to raise awareness and skills of members of boards and councils to prevent governance failures.

In his keynote speech, Why collaborative goverance matters, Alistair Bisley emphasised the importance of well-designed collaborative processes in the governance of scarce natural resources.

The event was spearheaded by public policy senior lecturer Associate Professor Grant Duncan and politics senior lecturer Associate Professor Richard Shaw – both from the School of People, Environment and Planning – to generate constructive debate and new thinking in governance for New Zealand.


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