China’s floods flow from corruption

8 July 2016

The following Noachian headline has been reiterated by dozens of news aggregator sites since publication by Quartz earlier today.

China’s devastating floods can be traced back to corruption and overbuilding” heads an account of flooding across 26 Chinese provinces. A super typhoon this weekend is forecast to add to last week’s rain that has affected 32 million people with alleged losses of about $NZ 10 billion. Although the numbers killed appear lower than in many Chinese disasters reported by the international media, this is the country’s worst flood for ten years. The city of Wuhan is most affected. The transport network is paralyzed because drainage schemes that were to have been completed this year, have been only partially built.

Flooding results from reclamation for urban development of large lake areas.  The construction of compensating flood controls has been delayed because funding has been redirected or lost to other corrupt practices. Quartz comments that corruption and wasteful spending scandals are not uncommon in China’s flood-control projects and lists illustrations. In March after a special Cabinet meeting Premier Li Keqiang spoke of new measures in his campaign to stamp out corruption and oversee public spending.   But when visiting the flood area he said nothing about these underlying causes.


IPANZ State Sector Excellence Awards 2016

6 July 2016

The Prime Minister’s Award for Public Sector Excellence was presented at the Annual Deloitte Public Sector Excellence Awards this evening to the Auckland Council for its Bylaw Review Programme. This was described as a complex activity undertaken over five years to produce a coherent and sustainable set of regulations – and which form exemplars for other local authorities. The candidates for Prime Minister’s Award are the winners of the eight categories of the Public Sector Excellence Awards.  State sector and local government agencies submitted more than 90 projects to be considered for an Excellence Award. The category winners were:

  • Justice Sector Excellence Award for Building Trust and Confidence in Government  – New Zealand Police for “Enhancing Trust and Confidence through Culture change at New Zealand Police”
  • Te Puni Kokiri Award for Excellence in Crown-Maori Relationships – Ministry of Justice  for “Nga Kooti Rangatahi” ( marae based youth courts)
  • Treasury Award for Excellence in empowering Public Value through Business Transformation – Inland Revenue for “Making a Difference  – doing the right things right”
  • Microsoft Award for Excellence in Digital Government – Department of Internal Affairs for Birth Registrations on line”
  • State Services Award for Excellence in Achieving Collective Impact – Ministry of Education / Tertiary Education Commission for”Working together gives kids better career choices and real results”
  • State Services Commission / Leadership Development Centre Award for Improving Performance through Leadership Excellence  –  Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation for Improving our Workplace Culture”
  • Victoria University of Wellington School of Government Award for Excellence in Public Sector Engagement – Ministry of Primary Industries for “Queensland Fruit fly response, Auckland”
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment / Treasury Award of Excellence  in Regulatory Systems – Auckland Council for the “Bylaw Reform Programme”

The Skills Organisation Young Professional of the Year Award  to Mataroria Lyndon, Ka Awatea – Counties Manukau Health



Does the US need to champion democracy at home?

24 March 2016

The  pantomime-like performance of leading figures in the United States Primary elections  hardly shows American politics in its best light.  A  shortage of  the tolerance, openness and integrity implicit in a strong democracy suggests that a significant number of Americans are less democratic in their commitments than American patriots may believe.  And that is also the conclusion drawn by the Electoral Integrity Project which evaluates elections worldwide.  Its latest annual report analyses parliamentary and presidential elections in 139 countries over the last three years, including 54 national elections last year. EIP is jointly run by University of Sydney and Harvard University research teams with contributions from more than 2000 election experts.

The perception of election integrity in many countries is not encouraging.   Approximately 15%  of the national elections scored lower than 40 on the 100 point EIP index for measuring  international standards, with another 15% not much better.  These scores are the aggregate of 49 questions grouped into 11 sections.

Only a third of elections were rated as “passing” campaign finance standards, with a third failing an adequate quality of media coverage

Long-standing Northern European democracies rank highest in electoral integrity, led by Denmark, Finland and Norway.  Germany is the only country with a large  population in the top 20. Except for the Netherlands, the others all have fewer than 10 million inhabitants.

New Zealand’s democratic lustre looks somewhat tarnished at 16th place on the Index, following newer democracies like Estonia, Costa Rica and Lithuania.

The 2015 UK general election assessed as the worst performance in Western Europe, means the UK at 39th,  ranks alongside Italy and Greece.

Even worse, the United States, based on the 2012 Presidential election and the 2014 Congressional elections, was ranked below other long-established democracies, at 46th equal with Panama, on the cusp of being classified as only “moderately” democratic.

2015 Election Integrity Index

1              Denmark

2              Finland

3              Norway

4              Sweden

5              Costa Rica

6              Germany

7              Estonia

8              Netherlands

9              Switzerland

10           Iceland

11           Lithuania

12           Austria

13           South Korea

14           Slovenia

15           Czech Republic

16           New Zealand


18           Canada


26           Australia


39           United Kingdom


46           United States


The Economist Intelligence Unit publishes a Democracy Index each year.  New Zealand can take more heart from that evaluation. In the latest survey New Zealand remained in the top four – along with the Scandinavians. The United Kingdom and the United States were more aligned with their traditional roles as champions of democracy, being placed among the top 20 democratic states.


Wlll Irish eyes be smiling this month?

14 March 2016

The countries ranking best on the Worldwide Governance Indicators published every two years by the World Bank are commonly smallish, with strong Western European values, and traditions of democracy. The WGI evaluate:

  • Voice and Accountability
  • Political Stability and Absence of Violence
  • Government effectiveness
  • Regulatory Quality
  • Rule of Law
  • Control of Corruption

And in other good-government assessments, like Sustainable Government, Media Freedom,  Open Budget,  Corruption Perceptions, Ease of Doing Business, Public Sector Codes of Conduct and so on,  the league of  the well-regarded  changes little.  New Zealand can usually make the top twenty.  The Scandinavians and their similar population-sized, affluent, liberal neighbours and like-minded countries dominate the top ten. But Ireland seems to struggle to maximize its Western European advantages – being now challenged by the likes of Estonia which with the breakup of the USSR is regaining its Scandinavian character.

Size seems to make it difficult for the leading financial and commercial countries to make the top ten with any consistency. Germany and the United Kingdom often appear to be the best ranking of the larger economies.

This time of the year is a reminder of the influences that have shaped the Irish, divided North from South, and given rise to poorer ratings than the United Kingdom “as a whole”.  Why is  Ireland not among the leaders as one of the small, affluent, liberal, Scandinavian neighbours?  While St Patrick will be a cause for festivities throughout the island this week, the Republic  will begin events that will run over the next 12 months to mark the centennial of the Easter Rising, and over the next seven days in Northern Ireland there is a remarkable Imagine Festival. Dubliner’s eyes may be on the Chief Post Office and the beginning of open hostilities by the Irish Volunteers,  Belfastians will have a Festival of Ideas and Politics.

The Imagine Festival –an apolitical provocation in a country which has been sorely troubled by polarised politics – is promoted as a commemoration to explore big ideas in that wee country.

There are 80 events to encourage debate on the big issues of the day – presumably with a nod to the Northern Ireland Assembly election in May and the EU referendum in June.  This list is impressive   The Festival’s events seek to attract many who are not normally involved in politics and to  stimulate discussion on new cultural and political  ideas.

This is the second festival, following success last year.  The festival organisation –a volunteer charity – has the following aims:

  • To provide a high quality showcase for new ideas on politics, culture and activism in Northern Ireland
  • To encourage the participation of under-represented groups in political/cultural debate and discussion
  • To stimulate reflection and debate on difficult and controversial issues
  • To promote free speech.

Solid accountability in NZ public sector despite softening CPI

11 March 2016

The Office of the Auditor-General has published Public sector accountability through raising concerns – a review of its 2014/15 work programme on Governance and Accountability.  The findings are generally complimentary about central government, noting that a  common commitment to transparency and accountability influences the special character of public management in New Zealand.

Public sector accountability is built on principles of transparency, integrity, and fairness. The OAG considers that accountability is critical to the trust between an individual and the State. Being accountable means public entities taking responsibility for their actions, openly reporting on what they do, providing specific information when asked, welcoming scrutiny, and being responsive when challenged. Trust and confidence flow from  the way people can raise concerns directly with the relevant public entity and if dissatisfied can ask an independent and appropriately accountable agency to look into their concerns. The review identified accountability functions across central government,  the interaction of agencies and those accountability functions and “about 400 different ways in which people can make a complaint or raise a concern”.

Trust and confidence flow from  the way people can raise concerns directly with the relevant public entity and if dissatisfied can ask an independent and appropriately accountable agency to look into their concerns. The review identified accountability functions across central government,  the interaction of agencies and those accountability functions and “about 400 different ways in which people can make a complaint or raise a concern”. Interestingly when there is increasing focus on the participation of civil society in Open Government, the review makes only one passing reference to the part it should play in public sector accountability.

According to the Auditor-General, “… we deserve our country’s relatively strong reputation for accountability and transparency. This is a tribute to the hard work and commitment of our politicians, public servants, the media, the accountability of public entities.”

Today also marks a different take on transparency.  On 11 March 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev took charge of the Kremlin.  He introduced glasnost – the policy of openness – and the perestroika political and economic reforms which in the face of growing nationalist movements, accelerated the unravelling of the Soviet Union.



Skirmishing in the Bay of Plenty backcountry

10 March 2016

Four police officers were wounded by gunfire yesterday following a cannabis harvesting operation in the Bay of Plenty.  Shots had earlier been fired at a supporting helicopter.  Police presumably were then seeking to isolate and disarm anyone involved and to follow through on measures to keep the peace. No doubt we will soon learn whether the injuries resulted from some sort of ambush by offenders, or through acts of bravery in the face of murderous conduct. Perhaps medals will follow.

An irony  is the timing and location of the incident.  March 10 is the anniversary of the creation in 1869 of the New Zealand Cross –  awarded for gallantry to locally recruited troops serving in the Land Wars.  The decoration was instituted by the Governor at the time who believed that the Victoria Cross could only be awarded in recognition of bravery by servicemen in imperial units under British command.

Tom Adamson, the first recipient of the New Zealand Cross was engaged in action at Ahikereru Pa to the east of the Rangitaiki River. The scene of yesterday’s  shootings is not far to the west of the Rangitaiki River.  Adamson who was serving in the Corps of Guides, and was wounded skirmishing in pursuit of Te Kooti, may not have lived up to the Governor’s intentions of recognising and rewarding honourable conduct.  In 1870, the year following his award for good and gallant services as a scout, he was part of the Wanganui contingent that sacked Waipuna Pa in the nearby Waioeka Gorge and took part in executing prominent captives.

Back where we started on Corruption Perceptions Index

27 January 2016

New Zealand has slipped further on the Transparency International CPI totem pole.  The 2015 CPI published today ranked New Zealand as the 4th  least corrupt public sector of the 168 surveyed.  That is the equal lowest New Zealand has been placed in the 21 years in which the CPI survey has been conducted – it was last there in 1997 – since when it has been among the top three.

New Zealand has vied always with the Scandinavian countries – alternating rankings with Denmark and Finland, and for several years, Iceland.  In 2013 Denmark and New Zealand were joint leaders.  The following year New Zealand’s assessment was unchanged but Denmark having gained an extra point pushed New Zealand into second.

In the 2015 CPI while  New Zealand uncharacteristically has dropped 3 points, and Denmark has dropped one point,  Finland and Sweden have each gained one point.  That has changed the pecking order. The Netherlands has gained 4 points to rank  5th equal with Norway, ahead of Switzerland.  Placed next is Singapore – almost an honorary Scandinavian like New Zealand.  Iceland which was 4th ten years ago is now in 13th place, equal with Australi


CPI Scores              2015           2014       2013        2012

1 Denmark 91 92 91 90
2 Finland 90 89 89 90
3 Sweden 89 87 89 88
4 New Zealand 88 91 91 90
5 Netherlands 87 83 83 84
5 Norway 87 86 86 85
7 Switzerland 86 86 85 86
8 Singapore 85 84 86 87
9 Canada 83 81 81 84
10 Germany 81 79 78 79


The Chair of the  New Zealand Chapter of Transparency International has urged that steps are taken immediately to re-establish New Zealand’s exemplary reputation for a trusted public sector. She anticipates further downgrades in New Zealand’s scores if areas such as access to information and governance of the environment fail to keep pace with the trends in northern European countries.

NZ CPI  ranking

1995        1

1996        1

1997        4

1998        4

1999        3

2000        3

2001        3

2002        2=

2003        2=

2004        2

2005        2=

2006        1=

2007        1

2008        1

2009        1

2010        1

2011        1

2012        1

2013        1

2014        2

2015        4