19 July 2012

“Many organisations have people who do dumb things,” the Inspector General of the US Treasury Department is reported as saying following publication of investigations into a number of the agency’s 107,000  employees.  Each US department has an Inspector General with responsibility to investigate misconduct allegations.

US Treasury officials seem to have fewer vices that their New Zealand counterparts if the Pricewaterhouse Coopers report from this time last year is any indicator. Many incidents in both jurisdictions have golf and dinners in common, suggesting a lax concern for rules on accepting hospitality from corporate executives and disregard for conflicts policies. The NZ Treasury proposes updating the staff gifts and hospitality register posted first on 22 July 2011. No other agency seems to have “gone public” with its register in this way. 

But a US Treasury banker seems to have been too keen to make the money go round.  Information released under the Freedom of Information Act disclosed his enthusiasm using public funds, for accessing “… websites offering erotic services on a weekly basis as well as communicating with and arranging meetings with women offering erotic services.” He retired when charged with “disgraceful conduct”.  This seems little worse than the dubious behaviour reported recently by Secret Service officers when overseas protecting the President.

Other incidents included multiple sport outings and related hospitality received by staff who believed playing golf with industry officials during the working week was “a condoned activity.”

US Treasury officials explained that these were isolated incidents. “Treasury has a strong ethics policy that we expect all of our employees to follow, and the overwhelming majority of them do… Treasury has a clear track record of not tolerating misconduct.” The claim was that their systems were working because these ethics issues were uncovered and resolved.

A former company secretary of Securrency, a subsidiary of the Australian Reserve Bank, which prints and markets banknotes is to plead guilty to charges relating to bribes paid to bankers in Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.