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More Transparency Needed For Government Contracts And Payments

New Zealand’s high ranking in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index should not be cause for complacency, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “The corruption perception index measures just that: perception. In fact, a low perception of corruption should be taken as a warning sign of complacency.”

“We need to be particularly alert to the government’s tendering processes. As a small country where it sometimes feels like everyone knows everyone, New Zealand is especially vulnerable to cosy deals between the government and its preferred contractors. Taxpayers deserve competitive and fair tender processes, but the trend is in the opposite direction, with the government and local councils limiting access to tenders with ‘Māori procurement’ targets and ‘local procurement’ policies. This should ring alarm bells.”

“We also need strong transparency regimes to scrutinise the government’s procurement practices. Unfortunately, New Zealand’s GETS regime is foggy, with information siloed in countless different agencies. Even if you know who to ask for the information, in the Taxpayers’ Union’s experience key information – such as the value of the contract – is withheld on the basis of commercial sensitivity, public interest be damned. When we tell our international partners in the World Taxpayers' Association, they are confused or appalled. New Zealanders desperately need the Ombudsman to observe overseas official information practices and ensure New Zealand achieves the transparency of our neighbours.”

“The same goes for grants, corporate welfare payments, and media funding. In order to find out how much money the Government is giving to, say, left-wing listicle site The Spinoff, you would need to first know every agency that contributes funds, and then request that information from each agency individually.”

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