10 January 2014

The Turkish experience where the Government is taking measures to disarm the capacity of the police and the judiciary to challenge apparent corruption illustrates the importance of an independent judiciary and entrenching the responsibility of executive enforcement agencies to act independently of Ministerial direction in operational matters. These are strengths of the New Zealand national integrity system recognised in the recent Integrity Plus assessment.

The NIS assessment rated the NZ judiciary at 5 (out of 5) for its independence in law, its independence in practice, and for the extent to which it provides effective oversight of the executive.

Similarly NZ Police was rated as 5 (out of 5) for being independent by law, and for its independence in practice. The rating was only 3 however for the transparency in practice, of its activities and decision making processes.

In Turkey, although the Prime Minister has spoken of relentlessly pursuing corruption, activities by the police and the courts in targeting widespread bribery closely connected to the Government have led to a purge of police ranks. Numerous allies of the ruling elite have been arrested on corruption charges, including sons of at least three Ministers (who in turn have resigned), Apparent retaliation by the Government has followed these arrests. It has replaced the heads of organised crime, anti-terrorism, anti-corruption and criminal intelligence units and relocated about 400 other senior police. The Prime Minister said he would prosecute senior judges if he had the power, after they criticised a Ministerial direction that police were to keep their superiors informed of operational matters. Turkish legal experts have described the direction as “a clear breach of the principle of the separation of powers, and of the constitution…”

(In the New Zealand situation this would seem to be a legitimate expectation, in line with the Cabinet Manual obligation that Chief Executives ensure that there are “No Surprises” for their Ministers.)

The Prime Minister claims that corruption allegations are made by politicised sections of the police and the judiciary, aimed at undermining his rule. There may well be strengthening opposition within the police and judiciary to the Government’s increasingly non-secular policies. Yet for a number of years the police and the judiciary were seen to be giving effect to the Government’s strategy of curbing the secularist power of the military.

Section 16 of the Policing Act sets out the rresponsibilities and independence of the NZ Police Commissioner
• (1) The Commissioner is responsible to the Minister for—
• (a) carrying out the functions and duties of the Police; and
• (b) the general conduct of the Police; and
• (c) the effective, efficient, and economical management of the Police; and
• (d) tendering advice to the Minister and other Ministers of the Crown; and
• (e) giving effect to any lawful ministerial directions.
(2) The Commissioner is not responsible to, and must act independently of, any Minister of the Crown (including any person acting on the instruction of a Minister of the Crown) regarding—
• (a) the maintenance of order in relation to any individual or group of individuals; and
• (b) the enforcement of the law in relation to any individual or group of individuals; and
• (c) the investigation and prosecution of offences; and
• (d) decisions about individual Police employees.