Will New Zealand continue to show it can be #1 in the world?

James Bushell
TINZ Member with Delegated Authority

New Zealand has one of the lowest levels of corruption globally. In the COVID-19 environment, will New Zealand organisations make corruption-free decisions to benefit all New Zealanders? Or will short-term self interest prevail? Which companies will emerge with higher trust levels and have stronger market-position post COVID-19?

As New Zealand tackles COVID-19, the country is faced with economic, social and health challenges. The country is required to move swiftly and decisively in order to mitigate the effects of the virus on society. As a result, we have witnessed a concentration of power, degradation of New Zealanders’ rights and freedoms and large sums of money introduced to alleviate economic stress. These policies and measures have been put in place at a speed to match the threat. They were implemented under a state of emergency, and under conditions not conducive to creating robust policy. They are reliant on a “high trust model”. A model which comes with increased corruption risks.

As a result of the measures put in place to combat COVID-19, the private sector environment has changed. There are now:

  • More opportunities to increase existing wealth through the misallocation of resources, contracts, grants, wage subsidies, etc
  • More discretion in decision-making and allocation of resources
  • Fewer transparency and accountability mechanisms
  • Limited supervision and enforcement
  • Asymmetries of information and resources allowing companies to take advantage of customers e.g price gouging
  • Heightened risks of privacy and security breaches.

Experience from past crises suggests that illicit finance will continue to flow. The European Banking Authority has warned of the ‘new’ modus operandi of opportunism where corporates may take advantage of the crisis to make short-term gains.

We have a responsibility to look at the issues at hand and the most effective ways to overcome them, to avoid the system being leveraged for individual profit.

We should not allow COVID-19 to compromise our values and our standards, including transparency and accountability.

Companies need to:

  1. Take time to think about what they should do, not what they could do.
  2. Ensure that sound processes and accountability measures are in place. Strengthen rather than circumvent them in the face of extraordinary circumstances. This is an opportunity not just to avoid corruption, but to build trust.
  3. Make integrity and trust a key part of the business strategy.
  4. Know the risks and prepare for them. Recognise opportunities to improve the business by improving compliance.
  5. Make anti-corruption part of the company culture and operations. Show employees, customers and suppliers that the company has a zero-tolerance policy on bribery and corruption.
  6. Consistently communicate progress to stakeholders, always striving for continuous improvement. Be proud and spread the movement.

Transparency and accountability must not be lost in the haste to respond to COVID-19. Trust is a commodity that is vital to New Zealand's economic recovery in both domestic and export markets.

Lets keep NZ at #1.

This article draws on information from these sources:

Corruption can have no place in our COVID-19 recovery World Economic Forum.

COVID-19 pandemic: GRECO warns of corruption risks Council of Europe

Eliminate Corruption in Your Company with 6 Steps United Nations Global Compact

COVID-19: A perfect storm for the corrupt? New and old money laundering risks during the coronavirus pandemic

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