5 January 2011

Human nature is such that ethical breaches within organisations are inevitable.  Cognisant of that, the State Services standards of integrity and conduct have been framed as an “aspirational” code. (Although the Concise Oxford dictionary does not yet recognise aspirational as a word, its inclusion in the Wiktionary indicates that this blending of aspiration and inspirational has traction as an expression for being ambitious and desiring success.)

The standards of integrity express what the New Zealand Cabinet Manual describes as the principles of public service – of being fair, impartial, responsible and trustworthy. Agencies are expected to have processes to ensure standards are maintained. But not all State servants are going to behave always as they should.

Corruption Currents, a Wall Street Journal blog has predicted developments during 2011, with a United States focus, that reflect ethical concerns . These are;

More anti-corruption enforcement internationally

An end to facilitation payments currently permissible under US law

More asset seizures

Big business employing compliance staff to reduce prosecution risks

Investors paying greater attention to corruption risks in businesses

More challenges to the Foreign Corrupt Payments Act

More cross-border cooperation

An expansion of anti money laundering enforcement and further crackdowns on non-traditional financial channels

More scrutiny of foreign banks

Similar developments are likely in New Zealand. We can expect that anti money laundering legislation will be enforced, and additional legislation will be prepared to give effect to the UN Convention Against Corruption. Ironically, within the State sector we can anticipate that increased transparency will stimulate media interest attention on influences on public trust and confidence.  Procurement practices, conflicts of interest, and the disclosure of officials’ expenses and hospitality spending are likely to get attention. There is likely to be a general concern about openness of government, including influences on party policies and their funding arrangements in the lead up to the general election.  This attention may well affect perceptions about corruption in New Zealand and influence New Zealand’s rating on the 2011 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.