25 April 2014

New Zealand institutions are unlikely to be substantively different from the average equivalent within the European Union. The first integrity report on EU institutions published yesterday by Transparency International identified a vulnerability to corruption. Loopholes and poor enforcement of rules on ethics, transparency and financial control are equally likely to present vulnerabilities in New Zealand.

The Eurobarometer published in February shows that 70% of Europeans believe their institutions are affected by corruption. This perception persists despite obligations the EU, OECD and the UN impose through standards, the Anti Bribery Convention and UNCAC.

Transparency International acknowledged that a range of rules and practices supported high standards of public service and accountability but that the complexity of rules, complacency and a lack of follow up had an undermining effect.  Concerns about the absence of mandatory controls on lobbying and poor enforcement of ethical standards are  just as real in New Zealand.

“If the EU leadership is serious about arresting the decline in trust and confidence, corruption risks need to be dealt with before they become corruption scandals.”

To safeguard the public interest Transparency International  recommends that institutions must;

  • promote a policy of ‘transparency by default’ in EU decision-making and to  resolve the conflicts of interest of  EU decision-makers
  • create a culture of openness by putting in place effective internal whistle-blowing procedures at all institutions.
  • set up a European Public Prosecutor with broad powers to tackle cross-border corruption.

There needs to be a further focus on  genuinely open and ethical governance, to close identified integrity gaps .