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TINZ Chief Executive Officer
by Janine McGruddy
TINZ Chief Executive Officer
Dear TINZ Members
Welcome to 2017!
We have hit the ground running with the launch of the Transparency International Corruptions Perceptions Index (TI-CPI) putting our public sector at number one with Denmark. This is a major win for New Zealand’s public sector.
We owe our reputation in large part to the ordinary everyday public servants and the value they bring to our democracy.
New Zealand’s public servants are mandated to be professional free and frank providers of evidence based policy and advice, without fear or favour to the government of the day, and to provide a no surprises approach to dealing with Ministers. Without the ability to do the former the latter becomes impossible.
Emmanuel Lulin, Vice-President of Ethics for L’Oréal, points out that the mark of an ethical working environment is one where you feel you can voice your concerns/ideas freely to those above you, and that you believe they will listen and act on it where necessary.
Despite that mandate and our relative lack of corruption, many of our public servants still don't work in the kind of environment Emmanuel describes. Risk averseness and concerns about their careers often leave them frustrated by their inability to feel safe to challenge or disagree with management on the provision of policy and operational advice.
Fortunately, the State Services Commission is making welcome moves to improve the morale of the public sector. It is important that as public sector stakeholders, we all support this.
For example, longer-term contracts for CEOs, may better enable them to take a long-term perspective, and share that long-term perspective with the leaders they appoint without a lessening of accountability. Our Chief Ombudsman, for example, has a five-year fixed term contract and a mandate to act with integrity. Having a similar arrangement for public sector CEOs would improve operating environments and better protect the transparency and integrity of advice.
It would behove New Zealand to have a code of conduct for Ministerial and Chief Executive that includes a requirement for Ministers to document directions given, in the same way that public servants are expected to record their advice. Ministers are expected to interact with their public service advisers consistent with the professionalism we expect from all public servants.
These are the kind of steps that improve transparency and integrity to enable New Zealand to enhance its leadership as a low corruption country.
We cannot take for granted this taonga that we have. Populist movements worldwide are proving to be the antithesis of anti-corruption and a reminder of the fragility of our environment.
Wendy McGuinness, CEO of the McGuinness Institute, makes an excellent point:
“Once corruption is embedded into the system of government, it creates a ‘new normal’ and that new normal can impact on families and communities over many generations. Building and empowering trust within civil society is one key way New Zealand can combat corruption. This is why civics and quality reporting form part of the Institute’s work programme in 2017. New Zealand is a small, isolated and wealthy country; we should be working harder to be an example to the world.”