Transparency Times August 2020

From the Chair

Suzanne Snively, Chair of TINZ,

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) has urged and continues to encourage government watch dogs to keep vigilant while the coalition Government is spending rapidly to buffer the economic impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on households and business.

With the uncertainties of the virulent pandemic – highlighted by the latest outbreaks – watchdog roles are essential.

More than ever we need transparent information while unprecedented amounts of public money are being spent or lent and government bonds being issued.

The public has a right to know about how funding requests are assessed, how money is allocated, and demonstration that the outcomes achieved are supporting employment and ensuring the vulnerable are as protected as possible against the spread of the virus. This transparency is important for the prevention of corruption.

A challenge for government officials is communicating in ways that are transparent, not only to experts but also to the wider public.

OAG reports released

In addition to its COVID-19 related reviews, the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) recently published four reports, all of which are available on the OAG website:

While these reviews were underway prior to the COVID-19 crisis lock downs, the OAG has made recommendations to strengthen transparency, reporting, and evaluation pertinent to the current crisis.

Transparency is essential to preventing corruption

In general, the reports show solid performance and progress in the areas audited. They also report the need for more transparency, both about financial accountability and about determining the value of outcomes.

Regarding the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), the impact of COVID-19 is making it more difficult to obtain consistent data to evaluate the effectiveness of the Fund’s investments. There is risk that officials will not now be able to identify the extent to which the $3 billion of investment represents value for money or contributes to improved regional and national outcomes.

As part of its multi-year examination of the PGF, the OAG will next focus the Cabinet decision to redirect up to $600 million from the PGF to the COVID-19 response package. Another part of the PGF, $70 million related to the Coalition Government’s manifesto to commitments, was centred on by the Auditor General as being particularly lacking in transparency and accountability. He stated: “In my view, in the interests of transparency of the overall process, it is important for the public and Parliament to have better visibility of how all the parts of the Fund operate.”

The Auditor General also found that Inland Revenue needs to achieve a significant benefit from its Business Transformation programme between now and 2023/24, when its monitoring of the programme’s benefits is due to finish. The OAG will not be able to say with certainty that the significant investment in the programme represents value for money until the benefits from the completed project are measured.

UNCAC review

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has been coordinating New Zealand’s response under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Review Mechanism.

The delay of over 10 years before New Zealand finally joined the rest of the world in ratifying UNCAC, was explained as the cost of participating in these regular reviews and actioning of resultant commitments. Nobody would have envisaged the huge benefits of this anit-corruption mechanism for this virulent Covid pandemic.

TINZ is advocating for New Zealand to sign up to the UNCAC Coalition Transparency Pledge.

This important pledge reaffirms: the importance of transparency and public consultation in addressing corruption. Civil society can play a crucial role in preventing and combatting corruption. It can also make a contribution as an observer of the UNCAC review, holding briefings and public debates aimed at successful implementation of the UNCAC provisions.

The challenge under the current pandemic time and resource constraints is for the Government to make the time to meaningfully engage with civil society about the role and value of this convention in protecting New Zealand.

Acknowledging Anti-Corruption Leadership

With the closing of the 52nd session of Parliament, I’d like to especially acknowledge three parliamentarians who have made a huge difference to prevention of corruption in New Zealand through building stronger integrity systems.

As Deputy Speaker, Hon Anne Tolley led the development of a code of conduct for Parliament and progressed the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC), achieving significant progress in both areas.

Hon Clare Curran showed strong leadership with the Open Government Partnership, which resulted in New Zealand’s National Action Plan 3 leaping ahead with 12 solid commitments. These include: the School Leavers (Civics) Tool Kit and initiatives towards a more accessible Parliament; and a policy to ensure the algorithms used by government agencies meet standards that protect the interests of New Zealanders.

Hon Amy Adams stewarded the passage of omni-bus anti-corruption legislation that included extensive anti-money anti-money laundering provisions. With this, she achieved a unanimous vote from Parliament in November 2015 to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. This now provides a form of protection for small countries like New Zealand from the inevitable activities of the corrupt given the massive flows of international funds intended to buffer the impact of the virus.

Suzanne Snively, ONZM

Chair

Transparency International New Zealand Inc.

Candidates’ Panel: Business and political integrity during COVID-19 recovery

Tuesday 6 October 2020, Wellington

5.30pm – 7.00pm followed by refreshments

Lecture Theatre One, Rutherford House, Victoria University

of Wellington, 33 Bunny Street, Pipitea, Wellington 6011

Note: this event has been rescheduled from 25 August, to align with the revised election date 17 October and the hope that we will be able to hold an in person event at that time.  If you registered for the 25 August event, you are already confirmed for the new 6 October date. Please let us know if you will be unable to make it so we can offer the seat to someone else.

Register Now!

 

How might we ensure business and political integrity in our recovery?

Join Transparency International New Zealand and the Victoria University Brian Picot Chair of Ethical Leadership, to hear the 2020 Wellington election candidates focus on business and political integrity.

Tamatha Paul, Wellington City Counsellor
Ian Fraser

Wellington City Counsellor Tamatha Paul, will MC the event. Broadcaster and political specialist Ian Fraser, will ask the hard questions.

This is not a debate. This is an opportunity for the candidates to describe what they will do to both prevent corruption and promote integrity.

Hon Grant Robertson (Labour), Fletcher Tabuteau (NZ First), Jessica Hammond (TOP), David Patterson (National) and Hon James Shaw (Green), will share their insights and perspectives on business and political integrity during our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Under COVID-19 Level 1 limitations, there still are some seats available.

As New Zealand transitions from addressing the immediate COVID-19 crisis to navigating through our recovery, there is a heightened opportunity for integrity violations. The crisis has required the Government to make quick decisions and implement drastic measures to protect communities. Without resilient and robust safeguards, our recovery is vulnerable to abuse.

SEATS ARE LIMITED – SECURE YOUR SPOT HERE TODAY!

To observe COVID Alert requirements, tickets pre-registration is mandatory. 

Open Letter to MBE regarding COVID-19 procurement

28 July 2020

Carolyn Tremain

Chief Executive

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Brook Barrington

Chief Executive

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

WELLINGTON

Dear Carolyn and Brook,

Government agencies have invested significantly in the last four months to respond to the COVID-19 emergency; we expected that this expenditure would be reported on the Government Electronic Tenders Service (GETS) in accordance with the Government Rules of Procurement (Rule 48):

An agency must publish the contract award notice on GETS within 30 business days of all parties signing the contract/s.

For procurements undertaken during an emergency, the Guide clearly states that the award of the contract should be published in GETS, albeit retrospectively, together with a clear statement that it was an emergency procurement.

We have prepared a schedule of the contract award notices relating to emergency procurements that have been published on GETS. We are pleased to see the leadership provided by DPMC, which has published a total of eight notices.

Carolyn, you will recall that we wrote to you in April setting out our concern that government maintain transparency of expenditure during the response to the pandemic. In that letter we encouraged you to remind all public sector leaders of their accountability. We are disappointed that this level of transparency has not been met. Only 13 contract award notices have been published on GETS, and none of them includes any indication of the contract value (which is required under the Procurement Rules).

We encourage you both to work with Chief Executives across government to ensure that their agencies meet the compliance standards in the Procurement Rules that have been mandated by Cabinet.

Kind Regards

Julie Haggie

Chief Executive

Tod Cooper

Director Procurement

Laurence Millar

Member with Delegated Authority

Open Government

Open Letter to MBIE re COVID-19 procurement TINZ

OGP – Opaque Government Programme?

Laurence Millar

TINZ Member with Delegated Authority for Open Government

One of the final acts of this Parliament was to pass the Public Service Act which has been described by the Minister, Hon Chris Hipkins, as the most significant change in the public service in 30 years. The Act defines five public service principles:

  • Politically neutral
  • Free and frank advice
  • Merit-based appointments
  • Open government and
  • Stewardship.

This article is focussed on the fourth principle “to foster a culture of open government”.

It is fitting that this legislation is sponsored by the Minister of State Services, because his agency (Te Kawa Mataho Public Service Commission – previously the State Services Commission) has been responsible for leadership of open government for the last seven years.

So what is the current state of Open Government in New Zealand?

Progress towards more open government is managed through a two year national action plan (NAP). New Zealand joined the global Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2013 and is currently nearing the end of its third national action plan, NAP3.

The government started development on NAP4 in early 2020, but progress was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A decision, supported by the global OGP, was taken to delay the timeline for NAP4 by a year so that it will be published in mid-2021.

NAP3 contains twelve commitments with 53 milestones, all of which were scheduled for completion before June 2020. What has been achieved? Sadly, the most recent report only covers progress to December 2019, so it is difficult to make an assessment.

What is going to happen for the next year, until NAP4 is finalised? Sadly, the most recent report on the work of the Expert Advisory Panel and the Officials Group is from February 2020.

TINZ has been working closely with managing the teams working on individual NAP3 commitments. Keitha Booth, the Independent Researcher for New Zealand’s OGP, has suggested new milestones for the next 12 months to maintain momentum. These need action.

We appreciate that this year has been challenging for government officials with the pressures of responding to the pandemic. However, it is disappointing that the leadership of the New Zealand open government effort has not published any information on the programme for the last six months.

Now that the Public Service Act has been enacted, it’s time that the Public Service Commission is well placed to demonstrate its commitment to NAP3 at the highest level. In addition, the five principles of the Act support specifying NAP4 commitments using engagement tools with strong penetration across New Zealand, to gain the public’s views about the public services they want to see improved.

 

School leavers’ toolkit: Practical skills for life

John Hall
TINZ Director
Civics & Human Rights, OGP, Auckland Events

John Hall

TINZ Director

Civics & Human Rights

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) is pleased to see the Ministry of Education make serious steps towards addressing the damaging socio-economic inequities in civic literacy within New Zealand. The recently released, School Leavers’ Toolkit is an important resource to guide our secondary school students for the next phase of their lives.

In 2018, TINZ made a submission on the review of New Zealand’s National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA). This was part of the national Education Conversation, known as Korero Matauranga. In this submission we drew attention to these inequities. That developed into TINZ’s involvement in the Civics Education Working Group that participated in designing the School Leavers’ Toolkit.

Students’ knowledge of civics enhanced

The International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) study of 2008 identified a disparity between students from European or Asian ethnic groups and those from Māori or Pasifika backgrounds in terms of civics knowledge. TINZ was concerned about the repercussions for society if demographic or geographic communities were allowed to develop diverging understandings of civics. There is a body of academic research that traces a close connection between income and education inequality, and perceptions of corruption. TINZ felt it was important to target this area with especial attention, to stem the growth of inequality in civics educational outcomes.

So we herald the launch of the toolkit, Practical skills for life. It provides information and resources in six main parts, namely: tertiary education, residential tenancies, finding a job, government, tax, and basic wellbeing.

The Government section includes an explanation of voting, enrolling, how the government works and interacting with government and parliament. Each module includes links to helpful resources.

Teacher resources strengthened

The Ministry has also developed a set of curriculum resources for teachers. These include a teaching and learning guide and an activities booklet. There are also separate resources in Te Reo Māori that align with Te Matauranga o Aotearoa (the essential knowledge, skills, values and attitudes appropriate to Māori-medium schools). The English language resources are developed on a Tiriti basis that recognises the importance of belonging in te Ao Maori (the Māori world view that acknowledges the interconnectedness and interrelationship of all living & non-living things). Important guidance is provided on topics including the Treaty, power systems, our democratic heritage and our role within the Pacific and the World. Controversial issues are introduce and media literacy problems are addressed.

Further progress

On the whole, the development of the School Leavers Toolkit and the civics and citizenship resources that accompany it should be a good step towards rectifying the problem identified in the 2008 ICCS Study.

The natural next step would be for the Government to fund Ministry of Education’s participation in the next ICCS study, in 2022.

Editor’s note: The School Leavers’ Toolkit is a success story of the 2018-2020 Open Government Partnership National Action Plan fulfilling Commitment 3.

References

International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) study of 2008.

NCEA Review: Transparency International New Zealand submission (October 2018)

Defence Force transparency found wanting

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) was found to have “manifestly inadequate” administration and institutional accountability systems for gathering, recording, preserving, investigating and providing information. This directly impacted on the quality of information provided by NZDF to successive Ministers of Defence, and through them to Parliament.

This is one of the findings in the recently published Report of the Government Inquiry into Operation Burnham. This operation was undertaken by New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) troops, in Afghanistan in 2010.

The 2-year long Inquiry was triggered by the 2017 book Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan, and the meaning of honour, written by journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson. Whereas they alleged an information cover-up by NZDF, the Inquiry did not accept there had been an organised institutional strategy in this regard.

The first of the Inquiry’s four recommendations is that the Minister of Defence take steps to satisfy him or herself that NZDF’s (a) organisational structure and (b) record-keeping and retrieval processes are in accordance with international best practice and are sufficient to remove or reduce the possibility of organisational and administrative failings of the type identified.

Banner for LIF articles

Maintaining integrity under pressure

We encourage you to read the blog from the Office of the Auditor General about Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ)’s recent Leaders Integrity Forum (LIF).  This was the first LIF after several months’ postponement due to the need to prioritise the Public Sector’s response to COVID-19.

It was this response that was the focus of the Forum.

As those families with children know, the Ministry of Education had a massive job to develop, at pace, COVID-19 plans and learning support for over 760,000 school attendees.  Iona Holsted, Chief Executive and Secretary of Education spoke to that. 

The second speaker was Simon Chapple, Director of the Institute of Governance and Policy Studies, School of Government, Victoria University. In his presentation Time, family, work and zombies, he shared some of the findings from a recently published survey Life under lockdown.    

The forum’s lively wrap-up discussion was chaired by John Ryan, the Auditor General. It identified the need to prepare for new-normal expectations on work practices and vigilant preparedness for future disruptive crises.  

The blog from the Office of the Auditor-General is online at Leading with integrity during lockdown: Starting with Zoom and ending with zombies.  

TINZ Submissions activity

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) continues to encourage our readers to exercise their democratic responsibilities by making submissions and responding to government consultation processes with their opinions on future direction-setting and legislation.

Recent TINZ submissions

 View earlier submissions prepared by TINZ, or search on the ‘Submissions’ category at the bottom of TINZ homepage www.transparency.org.nz

Submissions currently being sought

The following two centralised websites invite and facilitate public submissions on a variety of legislation, policies, levies, plans and projects currently being processed under, and beyond COVID-19 restrictions. They also provide updates about progress for recently closed submissions:

Unfortunately some government agencies still choose not to utilise the above websites, and instead advertise their public feedback invitations only within their own websites. 

The following invitations of potential 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. 

 

Public consultation on a proposal for New Zealand’s join the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime

  • Deadline: Friday 11 September 2020
  • Submissions are invited by the Ministry of Justice
  • The purpose of this consultation is to seek views on the potential benefits and risks of New Zealand joining the Convention.
  • The Budapest Convention aligns countries’ laws on cybercrime, upholds human rights, and makes it easier for the 65 member countries to cooperate on international criminal investigations. 

Reserve Bank Act Review – Consultation phase 3

  • Deadline: extended to Friday 23 October
  • Submissions are invited by The Treasury 
  • This consultation is on the regulation of deposit takers and the introduction of a deposit insurance scheme to ensure that the framework within which the banking sector is regulated and supervised, enables the Reserve Bank to perform its role effectively

Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Bill

Overseas Investment Amendment Bill (No 3)

  • Deadline: (extended – to be confirmed at later date)
  • Submissions are invited by The Finance and Expenditure Committee
  • The purpose of this bill is to ensure that risks posed by foreign investment can be managed effectively while better supporting productive overseas investment by reducing the regulatory burden of the screening process

TINZ Team

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 August 2020. To view by topic, visit the category page which lists TINZ topics and respective current subject matter experts.