1 August 2012

A Gallup survey last week focused on indicators of public opinion in the United States. Although for 92% of the surveyed population, creating good jobs was extremely important or very important, 87% also responded that reducing corruption in the federal government was extremely / very important. The next most important priority was reducing the federal deficit, followed by dealing with terrorism and other international threats. Setting high moral standards was seen as extremely / very important by 76% of respondents, ahead of issues like healthcare, education, environment and taxing the wealthy.

These priorities contrast interestingly with the most important issues facing New Zealand, as identified by respondents to the last UMR Mood of the Nation survey. Here, the economy was rated as most important, with jobs coming next. Ethical and moral issues were not considered to have anything like the priority they have in the United States, although community welfare rated similarly in both jurisdictions. Healthcare, education and the environment do not seem to be any more uppermost in the minds of New Zealand survey respondents than they are in the United States.

The lack of concern about corruption may well be justified by the continuingly high evaluation of New Zealand in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.  One of the tools that TI has spread across many jurisdictions is its National Integrity System study.  This evaluates the “pillars” of integrity –  national accountability mechanisms and the checks and balances which ensure effective separation of powers and control of corruption.  (The pillars diagram was developed by Jeremy Pope, a New Zealander who was a founder of Transparency International and subsequently co founded Tiri -Integrity in Action.)

Current governance processes to maintain democracy and minimise corruption in New Zealand have probably improved since an NIS evaluation was carried out in 2003.

The Transparency International NZ July newsletter reports on arrangements with agencies like the Office of the Auditor General and State Services Commission to update the NIS over the next 12 months.  The Eurobarometer published last year for each of the EU states was based on a NIS-like evaluation.