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Director, Transparency International New Zealand
New Director Josephine Serrallach tells Transparency Times about her interest and involvement is the interview below:
What motivated you to Join TINZ? Corruption is endangering the world’s economy and damaging the lives of many people, so when I was given a copy of the "Integrity Plus 2013 New Zealand National Integrity Systems Assessment" I saw in its recommendations a positive answer to restraining abuses of power by designing and establishing integrity systems throughout the entire spectrum of our society. Consequently, I decided to join.
Why do you feel it is important to be involved with an anti-corruption organization such as TINZ? It is extremely important to promote an attitude of zero tolerance to corruption and working within an anti-corruption movement, such as TINZ, is the best way to channel the personal effort to achieve a better society.
Why do you think New Zealand has such a strong international reputation for transparency and good governance? The corruption perceptions index 2014 comparing the levels of public sector corruption in 175 countries around the world shows that New Zealand together with Denmark are the countries with the highest trust in the public sector and this factor is well known and is being portrayed as a model to follow in countries which are suffering high levels of corruption. (New Zealand is now second in the ranking of 175 countries of around the world with 91 points behind Denmark with 92)
How does New Zealand benefit from its reputation? I think that New Zealand should made more efforts to get greater benefit from its reputation. Together with the branding of pure, clean and green, in certain sectors it could be of benefit adding “trust and integrity”, factors backup by the international findings.
Why do you feel that Transparency International is an important organisation? Transparency International is a worldwide organisation, “a movement on the move”, which has strong values and commitment to fighting corruption at all levels in all territories of the world. It is now a movement from the grass roots of civic society demanding a change and an end of corruption. The movement also has the back up and support from its “Secretariat” based in Germany.
Why have you chosen to be involved in TINZ? What would you like to accomplish? Not being involved would mean choosing the alternative, which would be to complain and do nothing. My decision is to be an active member of TINZ to work towards the prevention of fraud, bribery and corruption and counteracting in a positive manner any instances where conflicts of interests and breach of ethical principles arise. I would like to accomplish a transparent society built in a strong culture of integrity.
What do you think the focus of Transparency International New Zealand should be in New Zealand? In my opinion, the focus of TINZ in the short term should be ensuring that the pillar of legislation is solid enough to build up integrity and accountability systems and public policy processes. As a priority New Zealand should ratify and fully comply with the UN Convention (UNCAC) and fully comply with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention to build up a national anticorruption strategy. Some countries have added to their legislative layer a “Transparency Law” (e.g. Spain, November 2012).
The continuing focus of TINZ should be working towards the implementation of all recommendations as set out in the NIS Assessment 2013. The background work was done, the recommendations are sound. TINZ should work across all areas with government and civic society to ensure the implementation of all recommendations.
In New Zealand and elsewhere in the world anti-corruption measures are usually reactive, while greater emphasis is needed on education and prevention. I see this as the major role for TINZ in New Zealand.
What challenges do we face in our effort to promote transparency, good governance, and ethical practices in New Zealand? The greatest challenge is the attitude of indifference, denial or complacency of some individuals when having to deal with conflicts of interests or breaches of integrity. There is also complacency in relation to transparency, accountability and corruption prevention measures that could easily be implemented. It is only when there is an imminent threat of corruption due to practices in others parts of the world that New Zealanders react by adopting preventive measures (e.g. sports associations, businesses….)
It is also of great concern the increasing acceptance in New Zealand society of certain misconducts as well as the increasing normalization of certain behaviours that (if not illegal) are unethical.
What steps do you think we can take to safeguard us from corruption in New Zealand and maintain our world leadership role in good governance? As stated before, to maintain the leadership role in good governance, it is imperative that we have the right legislative framework to build up a national anti-corruption strategy, but the politicians of the day must believe in the need for transparency and becoming role models. By contrast, we have seen the dismissal by some politicians of severe breaches of integrity.
The next step is to work on prevention, prevention, prevention, through education and training towards achieving a change of our often relaxed attitudes.
How does corruption in other countries impact on New Zealand? Corruption has no frontiers. New Zealand sports organisations are worried about match-fixing invading our territory. Business people can tell many stories about the only way to getting contracts signed or obtaining permits is to provide facilitation payments, which, by the way, they are still allowed under New Zealand law, in spite that internationally facilitation payments are considered a form of bribery.
How do you think corruption affects New Zealand? New Zealand culture of integrity is becoming under increasing pressure. Even relatively low levels of corruption affect New Zealand and New Zealanders. Currently there is a need to restore trust in the political system. Achieving this would require a move towards greater transparency, integrity and accountability of Parliament, Cabinet, Local Government and Political Parties.
What steps do you think we can take to safeguard us from corruption in New Zealand? Parliament should be leading the way and provide the appropriate legislation and policies to safeguard New Zealand from corruption, because the greater the power the greater the responsibility. However, the media, the business community, and non-government organisations need to take a proactive stance on good governance and no-tolerance of corruption.
How do you think we minimise corruption in New Zealand? Education at all levels of society is crucial in minimising corruption in New Zealand and all sectors have a role to play, specially the education sector.
TINZ has also a role to play and I would like to invite private and public organisations to join TINZ to celebrate our country and work with us towards preventing corruption in New Zealand and maintaining the rating of being the world leader by having good governance in all pillars of our society.