NZ Defence integrity ranked high but transparency and integration need improvement

Government Defence Integrity Index

The combined defence sector in New Zealand is ranked the most transparent and least corrupt in the world in the just released Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI).

Out of 86 countries in the latest index New Zealand’s defence sector sits alone in the "A" Band, recognising its strong integrity systems across risk areas of personnel, procurement, operations, political, and finance.

This sits in stark contrast to its allies, many of whom - such as Australia, UK and Canada - have slumped.

According to the 2021 report “New Zealand’s extremely robust defence governance standards ... help to minimise corruption risk throughout the sector. External oversight of defence is effective, while transparency is strong throughout, including with regards to financial management.”

The GDI is undertaken by Transparency International (Defence and Security) based in the UK. The index is the world’s leading assessment of corruption risks in defence establishments.

Transparency International - Defence and Security's team of experts include in-country and external assessors and reviewers consider 77 areas within the broad risks areas, with the aim of producing a detailed assessment of the integrity of national defence institutions.  

In areas where New Zealand can stand to improve, the report indicated that the general poor level of regulation around political lobbying reduces resilience against corruption in the defence area. Other areas for improvement are military doctrine (including improving a culture of speaking up about wrongdoing), active monitoring against corruption in operations, and controls in contracting.

“The Band A ranking for New Zealand is evidence of the work that has gone on to strengthen integrity frameworks across defence services”, says Julie Haggie, CEO of Transparency International New Zealand. “We welcome the opportunity to talk with defence agencies about the implications of the country profile, and areas for further improvement.  The need for greater transparency in lobbying and influence practices is not confined to the defence sector.  We will continue our advocacy on that point.”

Produced by Transparency International Defence & Security, the GDI recognises that corruption within the defence and security sector limits a country’s ability to defend itself and weakens public institutions. See

‍NZ Defence Force lack of integration and transparency highlighted in report

A report into the organisational structure and record keeping and retrieval processes in the New Zealand Defence Force has found a need for fundamental improvements if the Defence Force wants to maintain its social licence. 

The report of the Expert Review Group, established as a result of a recommendation of the Operation Burnham Inquiry has made nine recommendations.  These focus on:

  • Strengthening the integration between the NZDF and Ministry of Defence throughout the deployment lifecycle and at all levels of both organisations.  This includes the development of integrated deployment lifecycles and more formalised use of cross agency senior reference groups for complex and extended deployments.
  • Closer work and integration between the Secretary of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force including on post deployment reviews; policy capability and accountability; secondments and integrated work programmes; integrated strategic military and policy function; prioritising the core functions of the Chief of Defence Force.
  • Revision of NZDF Public Affairs Strategy 25 be revised to reflect key accountability relationships and position NZDF communications to meet contemporary accountability and transparency expectations.
  • Steps are taken to integrate the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) into the wider NZDF and national security sector.
  • The Chief of Defence Force to improve the management of stored information particularly high interest and high-value information.
  • A review of the balance of leadership, accountabilities and responsibilities between the Chief Information Officer and Chief Data Officer to ensure they properly reflect the importance of information and knowledge.
  • Clearer accountability and responsibility for the end-to-end stewardship of the flow and fidelity of operational knowledge of public and political interest across the NZDF.

Group chair and former auditor-general Lyn Provost said the report’s focus on transparency and social licence were intertwined, and the defence agencies needed to take heed of its recommendations.  

“Strengthening and maintaining trust, confidence and credibility will require the NZDF to have a heightened awareness and understanding of government and ministerial thinking and policy parameters throughout the lifecycle of an operational deployment and for policy advice to be integrated into decision-making at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. It will also require NZDF to address shortcomings in its record-keeping and retrieval processes. 
It will mean making adjustments that help to ensure the Chief of Defence Force, Secretary of Defence and Minister of Defence have sufficient visibility of NZDF activities to enable democratic oversight to be carried out.”

See NZ Defence Force lack of integration and transparency highlighted.

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