25 January 2012 

The Transparency International website includes a blog. Four or five posts each month reflect the international character of TI and the universality of corruption. A contribution last month explored why New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries continue to dominate top ratings in the Corruption Perceptions Index.
In “What makes New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and others “cleaner” than most countries?” the author highlighted how …” these countries have a broad consensus that fighting corruption involves public participation and transparency mechanisms such as disclosure of information.”  There has been recent research into the influence of Scandinavian national integrity systems in reinforcing good government.
These national integrity systems are institutions like the parliamentary agencies that scrutinise the spending, effectiveness and lawfulness of government and other mechanisms for ensuring the separation of powers, the rule of law, the openness of administration and support for democratic processes. Their effectiveness can be assessed from the way they influence the national culture and inspire public spiritedness.
Through an EU funded project (ENIS) TI is reviewing how these work in 26 European countries.  Sweden, Denmark and Finland have been completed recently, and Norway’s “tools” were evaluated in 2011. However it is more than eight years since an evaluation by TI of New Zealand systems, since when there has been strengthening of some aspects. TI would be keen for funding assistance to update its asssessment.
Of course anti-corruption attitudes are helped where a country has a high GDP, low inequality, high literacy rates and a concern for human rights, shown by a focus on issues such as gender equality and the freedom of information. Government openness, community activism and social trust flow from the resulting transparency and accountability.
The half yearly publication by State Services chief executives of their expenses, gifts and hospitality, commented upon in yesterday’s post, is a recent New Zealand measure to strengthen openness and accountability. But that disclosure, required by the State Services Commissioner, is not the same as transparency. The Trusted Adviser blog this week explores the distinction between disclosure and transparency. “.. disclosure is a necessary condition for transparency. But it is hardly a sufficient one.”
“If disclosure isn’t accompanied by an ethos of transparency, it can be positively harmful. ….A trustworthy person (or agency) will not settle for disclosure, but seek to offer transparency. ..Trust relies on both data and intent.”  That sentiment should be motivating chief executives as they compile the schedule of their expenses, gifts and hospitality for publication next week.