26 August 2011
“Strengthening New Zealand’s Response to Organised Crime” published this week confirms that some government attention is being given to strengthening institutional controls on bribery and corruption. There may be more good intention than political commitment. New Zealand remains one of a handful of developed economies still to become members of the UN Convention Against Corruption (together with Germany, Japan, Czech Republic and Ireland ).
The Convention imposes obligations on its members. New Zealand to date has not had the domestic law in place to comply. In practice of course, the vast majority of member states have poor anti corruption reputations and neither the legal frameworks nor the executive commitment to give effect to them. The Plan indicates that action is underway to amend the bribery and corruption provisions of the Crimes Act. This will facilitate progress in ratifying UNCAC and strengthen compliance with the OECD Anti Bribery Convention.
UNCAC requires member states to have a dedicated anti corruption agency, separate from the Police. The Plan does not mention how that obligation will be met.
A heartening characteristic is the unspecific but well meaning statement that the Government will develop a national anti-corruption policy covering prevention, detection, investigation and remedy of corruption and bribery across the public sector, “including local government and Crown Entities and the private sector”. This may lead to agencies again focusing on their obligations in both statute and convention to maintain standards. The reference to Crown Entities seems extraordinarily specific, when SOEs and the hundreds of publicly funded agencies that don’t form part of the State sector are not mentioned.