From the Chair

Suzanne Snively

Suzanne Snively
TINZ Chair

It all started with an email from somebody called "Tony Night". That email, sent to the executives at Fuji Xerox and Xerox Corporation on July 8, 2015, pointed out instances of "inappropriate accounting" at Fuji Xerox in New Zealand.

According to Hamish McNicol of the Sunday Star Times, 2 July, 2017, an audit, completed just three weeks later, confirmed what the mysterious whistleblower had said: revenue had been over-stated at Fuji Xerox New Zealand (FXNZ).

“Inappropriate accounting" was revealed at FXNZ and later, Fuji Xerox Australia (FXA). In total it had caused losses of more than $350 million, $230 million in New Zealand and $121 million in Australia.

“The New Zealand Serious Fraud Office said last December it would not be pursuing an investigation into the company, but a spokeswoman said last week it was obtaining additional information.”

Japan-based Fujifilm Holdings set up a special committee. Near the end of its 89 pages on FXNZ, Tony Night's whistleblower email, the one which started it all, appeared again.

The report said "Tony" used none of the whistleblower systems the FX Group had in place.

"It appears that prospective whistleblowers either did not know the existence of the FXNZ or FX Group whistleblower systems, or had doubts about the trustworthiness or effectiveness of the whistleblower systems, or for other reasons."

Last month saw the launch of the latest Deloitte Bribery and Corruption Survey 2017. As was the case for the last 2 surveys, bribery and corruption are rarely noticed by Australian and New Zealand organisations.

The Deloitte Survey found that very few organisations had processes in place to detect, report or monitor bribery and corruption.

Tip offs were by far the most common means for bringing bribery and corruption to the attention of an organisation. Be aware that subtle tips outside of formal whistle-blowing systems can be the tip of an iceberg and might surface just once.

This month will see the publication of survey results from the joint Griffiths University/ Victoria University of Wellington/ State Service Commission study focused entirely on whistleblowing. While we’d all like to see a better narrative about how whistleblowing can work effectively, a challenge for the survey is that very few businesses put their hand up to participate.

Tone at the top sets the scene for the organisation’s code of conduct to be both an internal challenge committing all staff (Board directors, management and employees) to ethical behaviour as well as being a framework for developing ethical external relationships where those connecting with the organisation according to clear ethical principles.

Based on experience and observations, your team will like this once they try it!

Tone at the top is also a basis for implementing a set of policies that are effective at promoting ethical behaviour, a strong means of preventing bribery and corruption.

Tone is also a means of building a “safe” environment where people feel protected when they blow the whistle or provide a tip off.

During this election, Transparency Internatonal New Zealand will be asking all political party leaders probing questions on their knowledge of bribery and corruption. This is both a means of informing the public of their views, and, at the same time, educating them. Replies as anecdotes can carry powerful messages.

CEO, Janine McGruddy and Dunedin-based Director, Conway Powell, have started the discussion.

Here are their preliminary questions:

  • Election process “How will you inform the public of the election funding that your political party receives disaggregated to show what comes from supporters, donors and lobbyists?”
  • Transparency “How will you strengthen the Official Information Act process and ensure that Government entities provide information without delay or withholding, to the NZ public?”
  • Anti-corruption “What measures will your party take to expose corruption in public and private organisations - and actively promote a wide-spread anti-corruption culture in New Zealand?”

Based on the latest narrative on whistleblowing further questions could be based around:

  • What will you do to set the tone at the top to ensure a safe culture in the public sector?
  • How will you facilitate the development of well-publicised, safe, whistleblower channels designed for protective disclosure?
  • How will you make your team responsive to informal tip-offs?

Please go to the TINZ website and add your questions for our political leaders by filling the contact form using "election question" as the subject. If your question is picked, you will win a copy of Max Harris latest book, “The New Zealand Project”.

Suzanne Snively, Chair
Transparency International New Zealand Inc.

6 July 2017

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