14 October 2014

Integrity is the inclusive and all-embracing description of the ethical obligations of public servants.  That integrity engenders  strong public trust in New Zealand Government agencies and the people who work in them. Occasional incidents arise which suggest a disregard for the Fairness, Impartiality, Responsibility and Trustworthiness standards set out in the State Services Commissioner’s code of conduct, but responses to the State Services Integrity Survey last year indicated that 82% of agency staff considered their colleagues to be honest and trustworthy.

This of course is far from a universal perception of governments and their staff.  Many states professing a commitment to fighting corruption appear to have insurmountable implementation problems. The Conference of the Members of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (UNDOC) last week in Vienna is illustrative. Participants like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar and Syria are most unlikely to have administrations which have any capacity to give effect to Conference resolutions.

But illustrations of corrupt practices are not too far away.  Yesterday, the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption reported on its investigation into six former RailCorp managers, including the general manager for maintenance contracts  (and his sister working at Housing NSW) who used their positions to obtain substantial personal benefits from government contractors. The Commission found that they accepted payments which they knew would tend to influence the exercise of their official functions, and has recommended that the Director of Public Prosecutions take action.

Meanwhile at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington it appears that staff laptops enable access to sensitive agency information, including the inventory database, and recently up to 202 laptops have gone missing!

There is a vague integrity thread connecting these matters with the anniversary today of the Battle of Hastings when William of Normandy defeated the English King Harold II  – and of the nomination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr as the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 1964.