Transparency Times April 2019

From the Chair

Suzanne Snively Chair Transparency International New Zealand

Suzanne Snively, Chair Transparency International New Zealand

Innocence lost

The events of 15 March mark the beginning of the end of the age of innocence in New Zealand.

A remarkable feature of New Zealand society before these tragic events was the trust we had that we were protected by a ring of confidence from the horrible things that happened in other countries.

Now aspects of our lives which we previously saw as benign, are suddenly popping up like sore teeth. And some are much in need of major root canal work.

Social media is not innocent

If it wasn’t obvious before, it is now extremely clear that social media is more than an innocent channel for communication. The lack of transparency about both the formulas that are behind algorithms and the processes for managing their impact has been exposed by the Christchurch event.

Facebook, so much a part of the lives of many families and whanau, turns out to have hidden algorithms, some which direct information to us in a way that has the potential to do great harm.

While pretending to simplify our lives by connecting us with information about useful products and networks, it’s turned out that social media can also be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, marching into our homes spreading negativity that gobbles up our time and our joy.

After 15 March, broadcast media and world leaders were quick to call out social media for questionable application of algorithms that spread misinformation and hate. They joined other technologically-focused commentators who have been asking that there be greater accountability from social media for some time.

Facebook shirks responsibility

Yet nearly three weeks after the tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, was told by Facebook that it hadn’t yet made changes to its live-streaming. It appears that its founder and management team were disingenuous in their earlier promises to do something in response to the tragedy.

Indeed, the same week, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post, calling on governments and regulators, rather than private companies like Facebook, to be more active in policing the internet.

Zuckerberg suggested that privacy rules, such as the General Data Protection Regulation adopted by the EU, be adopted globally.

While the idea has merit in that it would apply to all media, it shows Zuckerberg’s well-known trait of overlooking the cost this would impose on the taxpayer. This from the major shareholder of one of the world’s wealthiest companies that, like many other tech companies, fails to pay its fair share of tax in many of the countries where it operates.

Sadly, it appears that Facebook’s initial intent to stop the live-streaming may have been in response to concerns that the volume of their users might decline if it didn’t act to stop it. A cynic might say that, instead, Facebook has deliberately left the door open to live-streaming now that it knows more about the immensity of the power of dramatic events to spread content in a way that attracts even more users – providing the big data that populates its algorithms.

The ghastliness of the gunman “sharing” his actions in real time, as he gunned down people in cold blood, was deleted from Facebook too late to prevent the video from being saved and shared with millions of people around the world. In some countries, including Australia, the live-streaming was broadcast unedited on television.

Further experience gained from the tragedy is that many of the media where the shared content could be downloaded, appear to have limited, if any, mechanisms to contain it.

Bad News Travels Faster

The homily that good news travels fast appears to have been usurped by today’s social media algorithms which are designed in a way that bad news travels faster.

According to Stuff on 4 April 2019, New Zealand’s Privacy Commission, John Edwards provided a written statement to Zuckerberg that he “was disappointed that Facebook had taken ‘no practical steps to improve the safety of its live-streaming service’ following March 15.”

The failure of social media is that rather than striving to contain the worldwide hatred echo chamber – they fuel it. They provide a forum for publishing acts of violence and are complicit in it. This is conduct that heightens the pain of losing members of our community, generating a sense of grief and violation that will take time to repair.

Strong integrity and transparency are hallmarks of any ethical culture, including the cultures of social media companies. Indeed, it’s critical for any organisation’s credibility and its future.

Added to this, leadership and leadership behaviours are an essential part of strong integrity systems. Will Zuckerberg and his peers take on the mantle of leaders?

Taking an ‘it won’t happen here’ approach to maintaining transparency and trust isn’t enough. Vigilance is required to maintain a strong ethical culture.

The tragedy has taught us that strong integrity and transparency are attributes that are important parts of our daily lives just like brushing our teeth.

New Zealand demonstrates the attributes of strong integrity systems

The leadership shown by our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, on the day of the tragedy and since has demonstrated the attributes of a strong integrity system that are part of our culture. These attributes were displayed by the processes, procedures, accountability of our police, other public officials, religious leaders and people from throughout our country. They have demonstrated that strong integrity is core to New Zealand’s culture.              

Ours is a culture that benefits all of us through its rich diversity and aroha. It will continue to enrich the lives of those who are still with us and give us an informed basis for defining transparency in a way that is more protective and preventative.

Paradoxically, the display of the positive features of our culture will be more effective than regulation at changing the behaviour of social media. So, the many positive stories about how people care for each other is the type of good news that travels fast to crowd out bad news. Social media companies that ignore the power of a good reputation, based on transparency and accountability, do so at their peril.

Suzanne Snively


Transparency International New Zealand Inc.

TINZ Values

Suzanne Snively
TINZ Chair

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) strives to engage all New Zealanders in strengthening the integrity systems of our communities, civil society, public and business sector.

TINZ’s values – Integrity, Courage, Transparency and Respect – play a central role in cementing this engagement.‎ 

A key factor is that these values are clearly defined. With this clarity, the relationship between the activities of different organisations can be leveraged for a higher level of engagement, and, in this way generating higher levels of achievement.

Values also provide the cement for the total TINZ Team – it’s Patron, Directors, Staff, Members-with-Delegated Authority, Members, Affiliates, Partners and other interested parties – to work together.   

As a first phase of a strategic refresh, the TINZ Patron, Directors and  locally-available staff held a strategy session on 3 March 2019. This was facilitated by Lynda Carroll at Align Consulting who sees the role of ‘values’ as central to the success of any organisation.

TINZ values differ from those of our parent organization Transparency International. They are aligned with our New Zealand strategic direction that focuses on strengthening integrity systems as an effective basis for preventing and protecting against corruption. 

The very important global mission of Transparency International is to detect corruption and combat corruption worldwide. In many countries, corruption is so pervasive that the focus is totally on identifying the corrupt and enforcing penalties.

New Zealand, with one of the lowest measures of corruption, has the opportunity to demonstrate how values assist in identifying corruption and nip it in the bud. This means the New Zealand Chapter (TINZ) can work in the context of cultural values where any form of corrupt behaviour is universally unacceptable.

 As a result, TINZ has greater capacity to demonstrate the opportunities that a reputation for integrity presents.

At the March 25 TINZ Board meeting, Directors approved the following TINZ Values and definitions:

  • Integrity – We behave responsibly, acting honestly and ethically in everything we do
  • Courage – We act in accordance with our values, even when it is hard to do.
  • Transparency – We are visibly open and honest.
  • Respect -We treat everyone with respect as we would like to be treated acknowledging and valuing differences.

These describe an environment for TINZ to more effectively align with other organizations based on a clear knowledge of what its values represent. As a result of the recent refresh, these values are embraced by the TINZ team.

New Zealand media and the Christchurch terrorism attacks

Bryce Edwards
Member with delegated authority on
Political Party Integrity, Media, Anti-corruption policy & legislation

Bryce Edwards
TINZ Member with Delegated Authority: Media

The terrorism attacks at two Christchurch mosques on 15 March 2019 present major challenges to the New Zealand news and social media. The media – like many other institutions – is under increased scrutiny in the wake of the attacks.

Firstly, there is scrutiny in terms of how the media have operated in the past. Secondly, there is greater scrutiny about how the media will deal with the reportage of the terrorist.

New Zealand Media under scrutiny

There is a lot of anger as a result of what has happened in Christchurch. People are casting around for explanations for why this has occurred with fingers pointed in a number of directions. These include the security services, various politicians, social media, gun control laws, and the Police.

Many argue that the event shows New Zealand has major issues with racism, hate, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. For some, the media have played a significant part in enabling this negative climate. Various mainstream media outlets and certain individual journalists and broadcasters are called out as being “part of the problem”. After all, media have at times published and reported on views that could be seen as racially ignorant, discriminatory or bigoted.

There will now be greater evaluation of the role of the media as informing democracy, or in stoking bad ideas and sentiments.

Media coverage of this terrorism event

There is no doubt that the New Zealand and international media have invested in huge amounts of coverage into this terrorism event. At times they have got parts of the story wrong, and had to be corrected.

There have been some particularly difficult issues in covering the attacks in Christchurch. These are due to its horrific nature and the involvement of a terrorist who is actively seeking media coverage in order to achieve notoriety. The media has, therefore, had to find ways of being sensitive and providing good taste and decency. There will be different views on whether they have achieved this.

Certainly, the New Zealand media have covered the event differently than international media. Initially, some media websites included footage from the terrorist’s own video of the attack, but most soon took it down. Some countries have been much more liberal in including this footage – especially in the middle east, where TV channels broadcast the footage as a matter of fact.

Elsewhere, there has been liberal use of the terrorist’s image and identity. For example, Australian and British newspapers published large photos of him on their frontpages. They covered his backstory in relatively large detail.

In New Zealand there has been something of a blackout of the terrorist. This is partially due to legal reasons, and increasingly due to a moral consensus that the terrorist shouldn’t be given the personal publicity that he craves. As the Prime Minister has said, she will never speak his name. There is pressure on the media here to do something likewise.

How will the media cover the terrorist’s trial?

There are fears that the judicial trial of the terrorist will allow him to achieve greater infamy and to spread his hateful messages. There will be great pressure on the media not to report many of the details. There is even some suggestion that the trial not be covered at all. Obviously, the international media will present a particular problem for this strategy. Questions about media freedom will arise out of this.

Possible clampdowns on media and political freedoms

Debates about “free speech” and “hate speech” have been growing over the last year. These are rapidly escalating in the wake of what happened in Christchurch. There is likely to be a greater public appetite for clampdowns on what is seen as unhealthy and dangerous political ideas. This will have large implications for the media.

In the sphere of “new media” or “social media” there is likely to be some big changes. In many ways, their issues mirror the issues faced by the media in general. But because of technological differences, the messages which gain traction are often much more extreme and problematic.

Much debate is needed on these issues.

New Zealand Superannuation Fund transparency

In response to the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund is proactively reviewing the breadth of its portfolio. This time its focus is on possible exclusion of all firearms manufacturers, beyond existing exclusions in the cluster munitions and nuclear arms sectors.  

Open data

Publicly accessible records are provided of the Fund’s voting at annual general meetings of the 6,000 listed companies it has invested in. Each decision is recorded for stakeholder and public viewing on the Fund’s Voting Reporting Platform.

This is an excellent example of publicly available open data towards which the public sector as a whole is tasked with providing. Informative, high-level graphical displays of search results compare Board’s decisions with management’s recommendations. Detailed drill-down is provided to individual resolutions/proposals and resultant Board votes.

Whereas the platform provides search filtering by date-range, market (i.e. country) and/or specific company name (i.e. name, security ID or ticker), it does not provide an industry sector filter.

Best practice

The Fund’s transparency practices align with investment managers around the globe who already allow stakeholder access to historical voting data. The fund has earned high rankings on various global transparency indices over many years.  

NZ Super Fund Head of Responsible Investment, Anne-Maree O’Connor, said the change brought the fund in line with investment managers around the globe who already allow stakeholder access to historical voting data.

“Given its importance to shareholder oversight of directors and boards, our aim is for the Fund’s votes to reflect the essential elements of good governance: transparency, board alignment with shareholder interests, long-term strategy, appropriate remuneration, business ethics and shareholder rights,” she said.

“The Fund’s voting information will be useful for companies, investors and other stakeholders in the listed markets, and making it available on our website is consistent with our organisational commitment to transparency,” says Ms O’Connor.

Integrity Fiji working to fight corruption

Claire Johnstone
Pacific Programme/ Maori Caucus

Claire Johnstone
TINZ Member with Delegated Authority Pacific Programme

Integrity Fiji, the national anti-corruption NGO for Fiji has been making solid inroads into working with their government and citizens to stem the flow of corruption.

Indicative of this is that the Deputy Commissioner of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC), George Westlake Langman, has asked Integrity Fiji to meet and discuss ways they can collaborate to fight corruption.

FICAC’s primary responsibility is to conduct investigations on any alleged offences of corruption and bribery in accordance with the Act and Prevention of Bribery Act No.12 of 2007.

 Chairman of Integrity Fiji, Joseph Veramu, said that working with FICAC on their common issue will be a huge bonus to the chapter.

 “While we don’t investigate corruption because we simply don’t have the resources, we do hear from people who have experienced corruption first hand. Often they are frightened to tell the authorities – but we are a neutral party that can pass information on to FICAC.”

 Mr Veramu said there is a need for more proactive public education on the definition of corruption in Fiji. He said Integrity Fiji can help triage complaints.

 “With good information, FICAC will be better able to successfully litigate in the Courts”.

 Mr Veramu said Integrity Fiji can also help FICAC to provide a more focused outreach to a wide range of groups including business people and public companies that deal with government procurement.

 “This will not only help FICAC to get their message out and also increase the corruption related allocated complaints and allegations.”

 Mr Veramu said the Freedom of Information Bill has just been passed by their parliament and it is currently debating the Code of Conduct Bill (for politicians and government workers.)

 “These acts should empower the public to seek information and demand transparency for public officials through FICAC”.

 Mr Veramu said that Integrity Fiji is also working closely with Fijian Youth. Last week they helped lead discussions on corruption with 500 young Fijian’s about the ways and means that they could be empowered and supported by Government and stakeholders in the UN, NGOs and civil society.

 “Youth are the key to our future. But we need to find ways that give them a voice at the table. We want them to speak out against corruption and we want them to vote. It is essential for Fiji that we expect a better future and that we have control of our own destiny – our youth must play a part in this and as the leading corruption NGO we are determined to help them to do this.”

Joseph Veramu Integrity Fiji (front light blue shirt) with youth group

Reporting on OIA requests and OIA complaints

Julie Haggie

Julie Haggie


From the Office of the Ombudsman

Every six months the Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, publishes data on OIA complaints received by the Ombudsman against Ministers and agencies.

The latest Official Information Act data shows a 34% rise in complaints received by his office since the data was first published two-and-a-half years ago. However this rise is substantially affected by the activity of a single complainant who made 471 complaints relating to delayed responses from school Boards of Trustees. Without that block of complaints there were 723 complaints received by the Office of the Ombudsman in the six months from 1 July to 31 December 2018, an increase on the previous six months of 3.7%.

Individuals made up 70% of complaints (discounting the 471) followed by the media at 20%, with political parties or research units accounting for 6% of complaints. As in the past, the three main areas of complaint (discounting the 471) were delays in decision making (20%), refusal of information in part (21%) and refusal in full (30%).

The Office of the Ombudsman completed 662 complaints, with 41% either not requiring investigation, or being resolved before an investigation began. Only 20% required the Ombudsman to form a final opinion.

From the State Services Commission

At the same time as the Office published its complaints and outcomes data, the State Services Commission published its data on OIA requests received by agencies and their response times. The Commission’s statistical data covers 112 different government agencies who are subject to the Act.

The latest statistics show that 110 agencies collectively completed 18,106 official information requests between July and December 2018, a 16.4% increase on the 15,551 requests for the previous six months.  

Agencies responded to 17,265, or 95%, of requests on time, compared with the 94.7% requests answered on time in the January to June 2018 period. 

In his press release Peter Hughes, the State Services Commissioner commented on the steady improvement in timeliness since 2015, when the Commission started collecting OIA data, but said the challenge now is to maintain the momentum.  Mr Hughes said it was particularly pleasing that District Health Boards had made good progress in the last six months, although a few still had plenty of room to improve.

Agency transparency

More agencies were also publishing OIA responses on their websites in the interests of transparency. This helps ensure that the public didn’t have to lodge further requests for the same information.

In the last six months, 42 agencies published OIA responses on their websites, up from 26 in the previous six months. The number of responses published has gone from 375 last period to 1138, a 203% increase. This is on top of the increasing amount of official information being proactively released by agencies.  

Police and Defence

The non-Public Service departments subject to the Official Information Act, New Zealand Police and New Zealand Defence Force, are not included in the latest numbers. They are now reported separately to focus attention on the results of public service agencies and better reflect the Commissioner’s mandate.   

Together, New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Defence Force completed 21,225 OIA requests between July and December 2018 – representing 54% of total OIA responses.

Overall compliance

Over time the information on performance that is gathered and published by the State Services Commission and agencies will provide a more comprehensive picture of compliance with the letter and spirit of the Act.  

Coming Events

Watch out for:

  • 10 April 2019, Wellington: Managing NZ’s Information into the future, Institute of Public Administration NZ (IPANZ)
  • 11-12 April 2019, Wellington: 4th international Public and Political Leadership (PUPOL) Conference at Victoria University of Wellington, School of Management 
  • UNA NZ Public Speaking Award for Secondary School Students. Regional events will be held in April/May and branch winners compete on 21 June 2019 at the UNA NZ National
    Conference. Flyer. Registration.
  • 30 May 2019, Wellington: 2019 Budget delivery by the Minster of Finance
  • 3 July 2019, free global online Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): ‘Ethical Leadership in a Changing World‘, Brian Picot Chair in Ethical Leadership, School of Management, Victoria University of Wellington.
  • Watch this space for the launch of the 2018 Update of the 2013 New Zealand National Integrity System (NIS) Assessment.
  • Pending 2019: Launch of the 2019 Financial Integrity System Assessment (FISA) 

TINZ Affiliates’ news

United Nations Association NZ

  • Applications are sought from secondary school students for the UNA NZ Public Speaking Award. Regional events will be held in April/May and branch winners will compete on 21 June 2019 at the UNA NZ National
    Conference in Wellington. Flyer. Registration.


Ed: Organisations affiliated to Transparency International New Zealand are invited to briefly share their news and announcements of potential interest to the broad readership of Transparency Times. Copy should be submitted by 28th of the month to, for publication early in following month. 

Submissions schedule

TINZ encourages you to exercise your democratic responsibilities by responding to invitations from government agencies, with your opinions on future direction-setting and legislation.

The following two centralised websites known to TINZ, invite and facilitate public submissions on a variety of legislation, policies, levies, plans and projects currently being processed, together with recently closed submissions:

Not all government agencies utilise one or both of these facilities. Many government agencies conduct their own publicity when seeking submissions. In the spirit of the new open government, TINZ thinks it is time that this fragmentation is eliminated.

Submissions currently being sought

The following invitations to submissions of relevance to TINZ, are currently open for public comment by their stated deadline. We encourage our readers to take the time to draft a submission, even if it is a short one. The submission process is an opportunity to exercise your democratic rights.

Vacancies on Open Government Partnership panel

  • Deadline 5 pm Monday 8 April
  • The State Services Commission seeks nominations for people to fill two roles on New Zealand’s Open Government Partnership Expert Advisory Panel (EAP). It would like the EAP to better reflect New Zealand’s diverse communities. 
  • Māori and Pasifika, young New Zealanders and people from regional New Zealand are particularly encouraged to apply.

Forced Labour Protocol 2014

  • Deadline Sunday 14 April
  • Views are sought by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on its discussion paper regarding whether New Zealand should ratify the International Labour Organisation’s 2014 Forced Labour Protocol.

Official Information Act 1982 (OIA)

  • Deadline 5 pm Thursday 18 April
  • Views are sought by Ministry of Justice on how the OIA is working in practice, and whether a review of this legislation is warranted.
  • Feedback will help inform a decision by Government on whether to review it, or whether instead to keep the focus on practice improvements.

Therapeutics Products legislation

  • Deadline 5 pm Thursday 18 April
  • The Ministry of Health seeks public consultation on a draft of the Therapeutic Products Bill.
  • This would replace the Medicines Act 1981 and establish a new regulatory scheme for therapeutic products.

Topics for Youth Parliament Select Committee Hearings

  • Deadline Sunday 28 April
  • Public submission are invited by the Ministry of Youth Development for Youth Parliament 2019 select committee topics
  • Young people (aged 12-24 years) in particular are encouraged to submit their thoughts on the ten topics Youth MPs have chosen to be considered in select committee hearings at the two-day Youth Parliament event in July 2019.

Charities Act 2005

  • Deadline Tuesday 30 April 2019
  • Views are sought by the Department of Internal Affairs on modernising the Act
  • You are encouraged to have your say by attending a community meeting and/or sending in a written submission in response to the discussion document.

Recent TINZ submissions

In case you missed it

New Zealand transparency, integrity and accountability

NZ fraud office probes opposition donation An allegation the leader of New Zealand’s opposition tried to hide a political donation, has seen police call in the country’s serious fraud watchdog.

New Zealand’s Govt Support On Blockchain & Crypto According to a report from Callaghan Innovation, the nation’s innovation agency shows that the government in New Zealand significantly support the space. They recognise the potential benefits of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies for companies looking to stay one step ahead in the industry. CryptoDaily

NZ Super makes transparency play NZ Super Fund will allow stakeholders to search its voting data by country and company, down to individual resolutions across the 6,000 listed companies the fund holds shares in.

Playing a short game on the privacy bill The select committee has played safe on the Privacy Bill, recommending only modest changes.

Government ministers‘ meetings to be made public from next year The State Services Minister will announce today that for the first time, all government ministers will publicly release details of their internal and external meetings from early next year.

Simon Upton: Time for more transparency on climate targets Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, has proposed separate trading systems for fossil and biological emissions to help tackle climate change.

Official information Act complaints rise by 34 per cent New figures have revealed complaints from individuals requesting official information have risen by more than a third in the last two years.

Greens introduce suite of measures to strengthen democracy Sunday, 3 March 2019 Press Release: Green Party.

Electoral (Strengthening Democracy) Amendment Bill New Zealand Parlament website

Beneficial Ownership

OECD releases first beneficial ownership toolkit The OECD’s global forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes, has released the first ever beneficial ownership toolkit designed to help governments, particularly in developing countries, comply with international transparency standards. 


Pacific group aims to strengthen reporting on corruption A new anti-corruption regional media group hopes to strengthen checks and balances around good governance in the Pacific.

TIPNG working to better inform communities for better transparency PNG Post Courier – Transparency International PNG has completed a workshop in West New Britain on how to monitor and report governance issues more effectively.

Solomon Islanders prepare for general election RNZ Morning Report which includes a 1 minute interview (starting at 1min 30sec) featuring TI-Solomon Island’s President, Ruth Liloqula. She comments on corruption surrounding the Constituency Development Fund, a black hole of nearly $2B of unreported expenditure since 2010.


IMF report on corporate tax today, Susana Ruiz, Oxfam International’s Tax Expert said:“The IMF report confirms what Oxfam has been saying for years – that the international tax system is broken and needs fundamental reform.

Financial transparency is not only about rule of law, but also national security

Scandal gives anticorruption agency the spotlight ACRC (Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission in Korea) to fight graft ahead of international conference in Seoul, Korea.

New IMF Report should trigger seismic shift, says Oxfam Responding to the publication of a new IMF report on corporate tax today, Susana Ruiz, Oxfam International’s Tax Expert said: “The IMF report confirms what Oxfam has been saying for years – that the international tax system is broken and needs fundamental reform.

Historic day for whistleblowers as EU agrees pathbreaking legislation The European Parliament and EU Council have agreed a pathbreaking piece of legislation that will help protect whistleblowers around Europe.

UK to encourage Crown Dependencies to introduce public registers voluntarily The Crown Dependencies have confirmed they will develop public registers of company beneficial ownership once it has been established as a global norm.

Panama Papers

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reminded us that they published the Panama Papers three years ago on 3 April 2016. More than $1 billion has been recouped around the world thanks to the Panama Papers. This is a striking example of how ICIJ’s worldwide, fearless investigative reporting holds the powerful to account.


TINZ engages New Zealand and New Zealanders in a broad range of issues related to building stronger integrity systems to mitigate the impact of bribery and corruption. TINZ Directors, Members with Delegated Authority and staff provide subject matter expertise in the topic areas of interest.

TINZ Subject Matter Experts, current at the time of this newsletter publication, can be can be found at TINZ Team April 2019. To view by topic, visit the category page which lists TINZ topics and respective current subject matter experts.