Letter to the editor
Charter Accountants Acuity Magazine

Acuity's editorial focus on anti-corruption themes is to be commended. As Chair of Transparency International New Zealand Inc (TINZ), I am continually surprised to find how few New Zealanders know the reasons why Australia and New Zealand are perceived to have among the top 5% of the least corrupt public sectors in the world.

The basis for this ranking of public sector corruption is the Corruption Perception Index compiled annually by the Berlin-based Transparency International parent organization. TINZ calls this index the TI CPI to distinguish it from our local consumers price index. Evidence of public sector integrity systems is captured by monitoring statistical trends combined with surveys of perceptions, from 12 esteemed international research bureaus including, for example, the Economist's Intelligence Unit and the World Justice Project.

Trevor Treharne's article on fair play and delusion in the June issue of ACUITY brought valuable insights into the discussion, launching off the Deloitte Bribery and Corruption Survey 2015 by reporting findings that around 23% of Australian and New Zealand organizations experienced one or more instances of corruption in the past five years in their home countries.

Treharne's key theme is that the perception of Australia and New Zealand being low-corruption bastions of ethical conduct has supported corporate self-denial.

Indeed, it appears that for the last twenty years that TI's public sector corruption perception index has been published, corporates have been relying on having a good reputation by association with the public sector. Instead of ensuring that their own practices are safe, there has been a "she'll be right" complacency around making their own organizations robust through implementation of anti-corruption best practice.

This leaves private sector organisations very exposed to the changing dynamics of the global market-place. It also means that they are missing the opportunity to harvest the returns that being compliant with international best practice would provide. These include the increased returns that come to high trust organizations through reputation, lower cost of doing business, lower cost of debt, higher shareholder returns, easier market access, greater staff and customer loyalty.

TINZ is delighted to see the 10 calls for action in the paper "Are Australia and New Zealand corrupt". The thought leadership paper by Deloitte and Chapman Tripp on the CAANZ website sets out a checklist with 7 steps including

  1. having a policy
  2. a communication plan that ensures the anti-corruption policy is accessible and easily understood
  3. oversight including a Board of Directors committed to integrity and a compliance officer
  4. awareness of relevant legislation
  5. regular risk assessments
  6. due diligence applied to all third parties and a commitment from them to adhere to your organisation's ethical standards
  7. and avenues that anyone can use to safely report any breaches of your ethical standards, the law and or professional standards set in good faith, without fear of retaliation.

We note that the same time New Zealand's State Services Commission is facilitating a process to address the NZ public sector's integrity systems so it can continue to be as good as it is perceived.

A challenge to private sector organizations is for them to demonstrate their capability to keep pace with the public sector. Based on evidence to date, they are way behind.

Suzanne Snively, Chair
Transparency International New Zealand Inc.

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