From the Chair

Suzanne Snively ONZM Chair Transparency International New Zealand

Suzanne Snively ONZM
Transparency International New Zealand

From the Chair, January 2019 Special CPI Edition.

Along with Prince William, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, were the darlings at the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) earlier this year. Meantime back home, preparations of the Special Report on corruption in New Zealand, led us to focus on WEF’s opinion survey.

This WEF survey is one of several contributary sources towards overall scoring in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (TI-CPI). It was the reason behind New Zealand’s fall in rank from first to second place (behind Denmark) in the latest CPI results. 

The key contribution to this decline was the 9-point drop within the WEF measure of corruption.  This measure is based on questions responded to by 66 New Zealand business executives between January and April 2018.

Last year marked the 15th anniversary of the 2003 adoption of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Since 2003, UNCAC has reached near-universal ratification by 186 countries as of September 2018.

Even with nearly all the world’s countries signed up to UNCAC, the prevalence of corruption remains substantial.  Tackling and preventing corruption has proven to be a complex challenge. A reason is the significant lack of understanding of corruption which, in turn, stems from the lack of measurement that provides knowledge about ways to eliminate it.

Measuring Corruption

When the measurement of corruption began, the difficulty of collecting relevant evidence favoured the use of indirect approaches. Rather than being based on the occurrence of the phenomenon, these approaches relied on other methods of assessment. This included expert assessments and composite indices.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (TI-CPI) is one of several indirect assessments of corruption that have been produced over the past two decades.

Results derived from the TI-CPI have attracted considerable attention from the media, policymakers and the public at large. In this way, it has been a useful tool to advocate for the fight against corruption and to give visibility to this topic in the international agenda.

A major challenge with the TI-CPI is that it provides insufficient information about the drivers of corruption needed for policymaking purposes.

TI-CPI’s measurement of corruption relies on a combination of contributing indicators including many that are perceptions of corruption, instead of direct measures of corrupt transactions.

To prevent corruption, governments need to keep track of the magnitude of, and trends in, its causes and to inform the population. This includes producing data to comply with the requirements of international monitoring.

The UN SDG Goal 16.5: A universal measurement of corruption

Target 16.5 of the Sustainable Development Goal calls on countries to “Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms”.

To assist in this, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been given the role of leading the development of indicators to develop a universal measure of corruption that can assist in improving the administration of programmes designed to eradicate it. UNDOC is progressing measures for SDG indicators 16.5.1 (public service corruption) and, jointly with the World Bank, 16.5.2, (corruption in business).  

The SDG’s questions are much more direct about whether public servants are involved in corruption than the survey questions asked by the WEF that are currently calibrated for the TI-CPI.

For example:
SDG 16.5.1 – Q2) Please consider all the contacts you had with a civil servant/public official in the last 12 months: was there any occasion when you had to give to any of them a gift, counter favour or some extra money (other than the official fee), including through an intermediary?

SDG 16.5.2 focus on corruption surveys amongst businesses will allow countries to gain knowledge of ways to prevent corrupt business practice.

Given the consequences of corruption, the sooner we adopt these new SDG questions, the better. 

It is time that New Zealand threw its weight behind SDG 16.5 so that the direct measurement of corruption can begin as soon as possible.  A first step of appointing a Cabinet Minister with a strong inclination to lead the development of SDGs, will enhance corruption detection both here and abroad.

Given the current level of engagement of New Zealand public officials to prevent corruption here, this will hugely add to our reputation as a good country.


Please take time to view the insightful video entitled The Struggle against Corruption: the Doha Declaration promoting a culture of lawfulness later in this newsletter.

Suzanne Snively, ONZM


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