Transparency Times July 2020

Prosperity through transparency for the 2020 General Election

Credit: David Dunsheath

Suzanne Snively welcomes attendees to the September 2019 Leaders Integrity Forum

From the Chair

On 19 September, New Zealanders will elect the Government that will lead the economy towards recovery from the downturn caused by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Political parties are in election mode already. Candidate selections are being completed. The parties’ list candidates are being confirmed. Parliament is sitting late into the evening to progress as much legislation as possible prior to the official beginning of the election campaign.

General Elections and the Economy

In past election years, once central Government campaigning starts, the economy has tended to march in place. It is only when the election outcome is clear, that activity begins to gear up again.

The extent of the normal pre- and post-election slowdown may be allayed with the current coalition Government’s extension of the $5.2 billion business cash-flow loan scheme for COVID-19 impacted businesses until the end of the year.

The challenge is to find timely economic data that is as transparent as the daily reporting of COVID cases. Such transparency to inform business decision-making, will be the difference between the government stimulus package aligning with business. It is also a way to ensure the business sector invests in future prosperity instead of resources being channeled into corrupt purposes.

Politicians fill the vacuum generated by limited economic data with their own analysis of the likely outcome of economic policies. This is where transparency about the basis for their analysis and the integrity about their reasoning leading to outcomes, is important for voters.

Questions to political parties about how they address corruption

As has become customary, TINZ has prepared a questionnaire for all major political parties, about their approach to addressing corruption through strengthening integrity systems.

There are two innovations in this year’s questionnaire. One is feedback from TINZ’s members to shape the questions. Secondly, the questions are designed to gain an understanding of how the different political parties are preparing to ensure that spending during the pandemic recovery is applied to support business recovery, rather than for corrupt purpose.

Political parties have been asked to provide answers about their approach to preventing corruption through their principles, values, and practices in 7 broad areas:

  • Post pandemic recovery
  • Political party and campaign funding
  • Code of ethics
  • Protection for whistleblowers
  • Sustainable development
  • Open government
  • Beneficial ownership

The responses will be published in our August edition.

Questions for voters to ask candidates about how they address corruption

Another TINZ initiative for this important pandemic-recovery election has been to develop a set of questions that members of the public can ask political candidates. These open-ended questions are broadly aligned with the topics above.

The antidote for corruption is integrity

Parliamentarians have a major role to play in national leadership and in their electorates to contain the virus. The Government has an important stewardship role.

Transparently monitoring and reporting negative as well as positive economic trends enables everyone to see for themselves what is working and what isn’t working.

There are many unknowns about the health consequences of the novel COVID coronavirus. What is known from experience to date is that integrity of analysis about the number of cases and open communication with the wider public can reduce the spread of the virus and save lives. It can also build assurance and confidence about the future.

As New Zealand moves through response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government’s integrity when addressing corruption becomes more important than ever. New Zealand has demonstrated that our team of five million can work together to contain COVID-19. Now, by strengthening integrity systems there can be a more robust economic recovery. Transparency leads the way to prosperity.

Suzanne Snively, ONZM

Chair

Transparency International New Zealand Inc.

Questions of integrity for political candidates

This year Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) asked each political party to answer seven questions that are important to addressing corruption through building stronger integrity systems with greater accountability and transparency. These questions are about fighting corruption, integrity, accountability and transparency.

Parties’ responses will be provided in the August edition of Transparency Times. 

Meantime, below is a list of suggested open-ended questions for voters to ask candidates.  TINZ knows that many voters have the same concerns as TINZ has.  These questions are for readers to ask their candidates. Readers are also encouraged to pass on this newsletter to other voters, referring them to this list of questions.

1) Integrity and trust

What does political integrity mean to you? What will you do to build trust in your leadership and your party?

2) Post pandemic recovery

As the country deals with COVID-19 response and recovery, what will you do to: (pick any)

    • Prevent the misuse of public funds for personal gain?
    • Deliver relief fairly and transparently?
    • Protect democracy and fundamental human rights?
    • Respect Treaty partners?

3) Political party and campaign funding

What actions are you personally taking to disclose your campaign funding from all sources? How will you make sure that money donated to your campaign is not given with the expectation of specific policy or action on your part?

4) Whistleblowers

Describe your attitude about whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing, (or alternative question) 
Are there too many, or too few, whistleblowers in New Zealand, and why?

Note: A whistleblower is a person who exposes secretive information or activity within a private or public organization that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct (Wikipedia).

See also Protected Disclosures update article elsewhere in this newsletter. 

These questions for voters to ask candidates, are downloadable (.pdf format)

Questionnaires for political parties

In this election cycle, TINZ is asking each political party to complete a similar but more detailed questionnaire. Responses will be published in the August Transparency Times, on our website, and through social media in advance of the election.

Our members contributed to the development of these questions which align with our mission – fighting corruption, integrity, accountability and transparency. Our aim is to examine each political party’s understanding of anti-corruption issues and their ideas about addressing them.  

Groupthink: Are we collectively ruining democracy?

Brain Food Webinar

Wednesday 29th July, 6.45-7.45 pm

Polarisation of belief is on the increase, driving people towards more fixed or extreme views. What are the causes and how do we challenge this?

This webinar session is an opportunity to hear views on how groupthink is affecting our democratic society, and about positive alternatives.

You can participate through chat and polls.

Sanjana Hattotuwa
Josie Pagani

Sanjana Hattotuwa  is PhD candidate at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS), University of Otago. 
He will take a Yin/Yang approach. He will talk about the democratisation of technologies and the demonisation of difference, about social media as bully pulpits, the tyranny of choice, and whether elections are still true markers of democracy.

Josie Pagani is Communications consultant, political commentator and Director at the Council for International Development (CID).
She will look at political cliques on the left and right, at ‘cancel culture’ and how this plays out in social media versus the non-virtual world. She will look at tribal voting patterns and the values that guide how people vote, and will touch on hate speech legislation.

Kim Connolly-Stone

Our MC, Kim Connolly-Stone, Policy Director at InternetNZ,  will hold the rudder and keep the pace going.

If these ideas light a spark for you, join us on Wednesday 29th July – 6.45 pm-7.45 pm.

REGISTER HERE for this free webinar, but numbers are limited. Those who register in advance will get priority.

Format: Two speakers and an MC with an opportunity for written questions and comments.

Book Now!

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

Save the Date: Tuesday 25th August – Candidates’ Panel (5.30pm-7.00pm)

Join Transparency International New Zealand, the Victoria University Brian Picot Chair of Ethical Leadership and 2020 Election Candidates from across Wellington as they share their insights and perspectives on business and political integrity during our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

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

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.

Transparency International New Zealand and the Victoria University Brian Picot Chair of Ethical Leadership are hosting the 2020 Wellington candidates, to share their insights and perspectives on business and political integrity during our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Date: Tuesday 25th August
Time: 5.30pm – 7.00pm followed by refreshments
Location: Lecture Theatre One, Rutherford House, Victoria University of Wellington, 33 Bunny Street, Pipitea, Wellington 6011
Registration is essential. Sign up for your ticket here.
The event will be followed by drinks, nibbles and mingling

A matter of trust – Beneficial ownership in New Zealand

Beneficial Ownership: Brain Food Webinar recap

Suzanne Snively, ONZM

Chair and MC of the webinar

Transparency International New Zealand Inc.

The aspirational outcome for this webinar is that we can build a team to bring about changes to the law, policies and practice around the registration of overseas beneficial ownership.

The attendance and feedback to this first ever Transparency International New Zealand webinar was beyond expectations. We are pleased at the level of New Zealand’s determination to prevent corruption.

A Beneficial owner is a person or organization that has the right to receive income or profits from a property or investment. They are the ones who benefit even though the legal title may appear to belong to another person or entity.

New Zealand’s looseness around the registration of overseas beneficial owners leaves us very exposed to corruption in the form of very costly white-collar crime. We are also seeing more evidence of some of the world’s biggest drug gangs in New Zealand, who are likely to be laundering money through New Zealand. 

Beneficial Ownership around the world

TINZ Director, Dr John Hopkins presented on the different laws about beneficial ownership in different countries around the world.

Through his role as an Associate Investigator on a European Union funded project examining Anti-Corruption Mechanisms in the South Pacific Region, Dr Hopkins provided an outline of both the threat and legal changes required. He provided a map showing how few countries have policies in place regarding beneficial ownership. 

He discussed:

  • the general concept of a beneficial ownership register and why it is a good idea
  • why it is difficult to identify the owner(s) of a trust
  • how trusts are currently being manipulated to disguise who truly maintains control of the funds.

Dr Hopkins pointed out that it is important to identify who actually benefits, rather than simply reporting a person or entity as an owner.

New Zealand developments

Professor Mark Bennett from Victoria University’s Faculty of Law, outlined the coalition government’s current review of beneficial ownership, noting that it is in the process of going to Parliament with its findings.

How do we get this government to prioritise the tightening up of our beneficial ownership policy?

How do we create a register dataset that will help prevent use of New Zealand’s trust system to launder money?

The 2013 New Zealand Law Commission report recommended against creation of a public register of beneficial ownership. Unfortunately, this has since been mentioned as a reason to not progress changes to trust legislation. A compromise to consider is that New Zealand Foreign Trust registration could have different features from those for registering the beneficial owners of New Zealand-owned trusts.

International comparisons

The European Union’s 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directives require beneficial ownership registers that include trusts. The 5th (and latest directive) extends registration requirements beyond trusts, with tax consequences to most ‘express trusts’. This has not been put into effect yet in England where the consultation document indicates certain ‘low risk’ trusts will be excluded from registration and as a result, the information will not be open. 

Overall, New Zealand needs to move forward on trust registration to keep up with European Union developments. English trusts are going to be registered, challenging the previous view there, that trusts are fundamentally private and should not be registered.

Private/public information dilema 

It is important to consider the specific information required by both companies and trusts registers. It is challenging to require information about an organisation’s private financial affairs to be publicly accessible. If information about trusts is similar to that required in the companies register (even without telling the general public about financial affairs in any detail), it would normally be sufficient for police and financial intelligence units to investigate when dealing with money laundering and criminal offences.

Active webinar discussion about beneficial ownership

An active question and answer session followed the two presentations.

A key insight was that the 2009 -2013 Law Commission Report, which recommended against the registration of beneficial ownership, was focused on New Zealand Trusts where the beneficial owners were often families and/or entities where the beneficial owners were all New Zealanders. It was the Panama Papers in 2016 (refer earlier newsletter) which brought the magnitude and nature of international corruption into focus. This exposed the risks to New Zealand if laws here are not tightened up, at the very least to require the registration of foreign beneficial ownership.

A public register would reduce the duplication created by the anti-money laundering legislation where currently each business and financial organisation has to maintain its own register of overseas beneficial owners.

A recording of the webinar is available on Facebook.

Liquidity post COVID-19: The king is dead, long live the king!

Tod Cooper
TINZ Director
Focus on Procurement

The other day I heard the term EBITDAC (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and Coronavirus). It made me laugh, then I realised that as the new era ‘AC’ (After Coronavirus) kicks in, we seriously need to adjust our financials to avoid triggering defaults on loans, justify the new numbers and dividend suspensions to Boards and Shareholders, and for accessing Government support packages, etc.

I have long banged on about the importance of having good liquidity. The current ratio (liquidity ratio measuring working capital) for a business indicates a company’s ability to pay off its debt obligations and is an indicator of good financial health and ability to endure financial hardships. The higher the ratio, the better the ability.

In my career I have been privileged to judge business awards, work with many SMEs and evaluate dozens of tenders where we have looked closely at financials to support sustainability. One thing that has always troubled me is the liquidity of New Zealand business. I cannot recall many situations where the current ratio was in excess of 1.2 (the minimum ratio deemed healthy).

Now please don’t align my views with those recently given by an MP who stated to the COVID-19 Epidemic Response Committee that “We are seeing a number of small businesses really struggling after only a few weeks in a pretty bad situation, which must speak to the strength of those small businesses going into this lockdown”. 

Throwing this criticism after the global impact and response to COVID-19, which as per the cliché has certainly been unprecedented, in my personal opinion is a bit rich and surprising. What the MP has failed to consider is that even those small and large businesses who are in a healthy liquidity position have equally been gazumped by COVID-19. Like a Francis Ford Coppola mobster movie, it has created a perfect storm where your assets have been ostensibly frozen, and you are powerless to do anything to fix it. Basically:

  1. You cannot sell. It has directly disrupted the circulation of capital not only nationally, but globally; not only B2B but B2C.
  2. You cannot borrow. It has severely limited the ability to secure capital from banks in the form of loans.
  3. You cannot make. It has directly disrupted the ability to generate capital by manufacturing stock.
  4. You cannot quit. It has directly disrupted the ability to generate capital by selling of assets such as plant and machinery.

So as we rebuild – and I recognise some of us will be victims to corona, my heart goes out to you – we will need to consider far more seriously how we manage our net-debt ratios, in particular over the next 12-24 months where we will see increased volatility. We need to urgently find different ways of working focussed on maintaining the liquidity flow in our businesses. And the companies who do this well will create their own new long-term prosperity, and be the solid base of New Zealand’s new prosperity in the post-Coronavirus world.

This is the new key to survival and the best way to avoid a prolonged economic crisis.

 

Open procurement update

Laurence Millar

TINZ Member with Delegated Authority for Open Government

Transparency of procurement (e.g. contracting) is essential for public trust in government. Open procurement was one of twelve areas of focus in the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan Three (NAP3). TINZ is delighted that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) began publishing this open data in October 2019 and has followed up with quarterly publications since then.

The latest data, covering the year to 30 June 2020, was released as this article was written. Our analysis will be published in a future article. MBIE also published historic data from 2014 to June 2019. We applaud MBIE for this continuing commitment to open publication of contract award notices.

TINZ has analysed information on the 2,151 contract award notices that were published as open data for the period July 2019 to March 2020. As we wrote in April, this analysis is made difficult by data quality issues, specifically:

  • not completing the mandatory supplier field
  • not completing the mandatory amount field
  • “Not awarded” in the award field, when a supplier has been contracted
  • multiple variations of the supplier company name.

In response to the first two quality issues, we looked at the data provided by government agencies in the comments field and have added details of more than 200 suppliers and 200 contract values that are not published in the correct fields. As a result of this analysis, we have been able to publish details of 1,916 contract award notices for the period July 2019 to March 2020. The data illustrates the last two data quality issues.

There is a significant opportunity for improvement in the quality of the information about contract award notices published by government. We have suggested to MBIE that this could be a focus for the next 12 months, in light of the decision to extend NAP3 for a year in response to COVID-19. Since all the milestones in the Open Procurement Commitment have already been met, setting targets for this improvement would be an excellent focus while NAP4 is under development.

Agencies have varying mandate and eligibility under the government procurement rules. We have analysed compliance for the different types of agencies which is summarised below.

Mandate

Description of agencies

Number of award notices

“Not awarded” correctly stated

Value published

Required to comply with the rules

Public service and crown entities

1,364

82%

39%

Encouraged to comply with the rules

Tertiary institutions, local government

601

74%

11%

Have regard to or expected to comply with the rules

CRIs, other state sector organisations

35

80%

11%

Eligible to use government procurement systems

Other agencies that are able to use GETS

150

88%

53%

All award notices

2,150

80%

32%

It is ironic that the highest level of compliance is achieved by the sector with the weakest mandate. The “eligible” sector achieved 88% correct publication of award notices, and 53% publication of contract value.

The TINZ view is that the level of compliance with the mandatory procurement rules needs significant improvement by all government agencies. We encourage government agencies to identify ways in which they can improve the quality of the information that they published about contract award notices. We propose the following targets:

  • ‘Award’ field correctly published — Target of 98% by June 2021 
  • ‘Contract value’ published — Target of 70% by June 2021.

We also support the ongoing efforts by MBIE to improve the quality of the supplier data, such as encouraging suppliers to provide their New Zealand Business Number (NZBN).

Protected Disclosures update

Julie Haggie
Chief Executive Officer
Transparency International New Zealand

Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Bill 2020

It has been a long wait, but we finally have The Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Bill, which if passed will amend the 2010 Act. 

Submissions are now being accepted on the Bill, with the closing date of 12 August 2020. The State Services Commission (SSC) Disclosure statement and the Regulatory Impact Statement, are also available.

With the government stimulus package to aid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic totalling billions of dollars, there is an urgent need for effective protective disclosure law. Business loans have been promptly distributed on a high-trust basis by the Inland Revenue Department, to achieve effective outcomes from this stimulus. Prudent stewardship requires oversight now, to ensure the loans are used appropriately. Whistleblowers whose activities are protected, can provide an effective tether on organisations who might choose to exploit the good intentions of the stimulus package for personal gains. 

Key elements

The Bill goes part way to addressing the issues that submitters, including TINZ, raised in their submissions in late 2018. There are still gaps, with a promise from Minister Hipkins in his February Cabinet paper that some of these, including improved monitoring of whistleblowing occurrences and outcomes, will will be addressed in the next phase.

The current Act is not working functionally.  The Regulatory Impact statement notes that very few disclosures are being made to ‘appropriate authorities’, and some authorities are not keeping good records on disclosures.  The Act is very difficult to navigate and to understand, with confusion for both those who want to speak up and those who receive a disclosure.

The Bill aims to encourage more people to step forward, and to ensure that the process is clearer for protection of individuals who speak up. There will be more options for who whistleblowers can report to, and fewer requirements about why they should report.

The legislation will press for organisations to improve their culture relating to whistleblowing, through providing accessible and responsive policies and procedures. The scope of this necessary cultural change has been extended to any organisation in the public or private sector, where the suspected wrongdoing relates to misuse of public funds or resources.

Confidentiality protections for whistleblowers are also clarified.

Application of the act

A current example of the important role that whistleblowers play and possible interpretation of the Act, involves Emirates Team NZ. It recently tried to block publication of a draft audit of the financial statements of America’s Cup Event Ltd, the entity that has already received $29 million of public funding. A comment by Emirates Team NZ on Twitter is that “Whistleblower Protected Disclosures Act doesn’t apply in this situation”. This comment is assumed to relate to information provided by a whistleblower, which has led to MBIE’s investigation.  

Protected disclosure research findings

The “Whistling While They Work” research project covering Australia and New Zealand shows that:

  • Ethical culture, and the ethical leadership of an organisation, have far more impact on the treatment of whistleblowers than rules and regulations. 
  • Tips through confidential reporting means are the most important sources for bringing wrongdoing to light within any organisation (also supported by other research)
  • The majority of those who speak up suffer adverse effects of reporting – most commonly stress and emotional strain, even when the reporting experience is positive (and even when the amounts saved by customers and/or tax payers are large).
  • People are more likely to speak up when they have trust in the processes and see there is organisational support for whistleblowing, i.e when they feel safe to report without censure.
  • Risk assessments for individual disclosers and the organisations involved, are more likely to lead to better outcomes for both.

So the best use of legislative power would be to facilitate increasing ethical behaviour by organisations including protection and risk assessment. It is good to see that this has been built into the act for public sector organisations and any place where public sector funding or resources are used. 

Extending protected disclosure to the private sector

There is no change in the legal protection for people who want to speak up in the private sector. They already have legal protection when reporting on some matters. These offences include: risks to the maintenance of law, unlawful corrupt or irregular use of public funds or resources, serious risks to public health, public safety or the environment.

But the Bill does not provide legal pressure on private and NGO organisations to undertake the behavioural change identified as necessary in the SSC regulatory statement (“enabling a culture change within (public and private) organisations in terms of encouraging, supporting and protecting disclosers”), except when the reported wrongdoing applies to the use of public funds and resources.

Australia requires whistleblower policies

As a comparison, in Australia all public companies (large proprietary companies and proprietary companies that are trustees of registrable superannuation entities) have been required to have a whistleblower policy available to officers and employees since the start of this year. Such policies must include who, how, specific legal protection, investigation procedures, fair treatment, and clear accessibility to this information.

Whistleblowers in the Australian private sector can also disclose on matters where there is an ‘improper state of affairs or circumstances’. This sort of reporting can indicate a systemic issue that the relevant regulator should know about to properly perform its functions. It may also relate to business behaviour and practices that may cause consumer harm. This is not covered in the New Zealand bill.

Conclusion

It is not clear why the New Zealand government isn’t taking this opportunity to encourage a stronger protective disclosure approach within the private sector.

For the effectiveness of the Protective Disclosures Bill as it currently stands before Parliament, the proof will be in the pudding. It has taken 20 years to get this change through. It will be important to have more rigorous monitoring of numbers of whistleblowing events and outcomes, to check if the new legislation actually works to encourage more people to speak up.

Let’s sharpen NZ’s 2018-2020 open government commitments

Keitha Booth

Independent Researcher for New Zealand’s Open Government Partnership

COVID-19 adversity has given the New Zealand government an unexpected opportunity to work more deeply on its 2018-2020 Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan (NAP). The OGP is allowing member countries to extend the timeline for their existing NAPs that were due for completion on 30 June 2020. By 31 August 2020, countries must declare to OGP their intentions to expand the content of their plans during a one year deadline extension.

The OGP warns that transparency and accountability cannot be put on lockdown.

I understand the New Zealand government is accepting the offer to extend. It is adding new activities to its 2018-2020 NAP and moving its completion date to 30 June 2021. This gives government agencies leading the 12 commitments, an extra year to fully tackle the social, economic, political, or environmental problems they initially identified and also take COVID-19 into account. I will have more time to work with the public to assess how this NAP has increased access to information, civic participation and public accountability in New Zealand.

In the February 2020 New Zealand Design Report 2018-2020  I rated two NAP commitments as potentially having transformative impact for the public: Commitment 4 – “making New Zealand’s secondary legislation readily accessible”; and Commitment 11 – “authoritative dataset of government organisations as open data for greater transparency”. I rated the potential of the other ten as minor and noted that Commitment 8,  review of government algorithms, is a new frontier in open governance.

So, over this July 2020 we, the NZ bubble of five million, have a new open government opportunity: to propose more ambitious activities for the extended 2018-2020 NAP, including responding to COVID-19. This will add weight to the Minister of State Services’ February 2019 statement: “Rather than taking the new plan as being the ultimate end state, I’m going to push hard to go even further and faster”. Send your thoughts to ogpnz@ssc.govt.nz.

Here are my suggestions for the updated plan:

Commitment One: Engagement with Parliament

  • Work with more ethnicities and with social groups with accessibility constraints
  • Release Hansard and other core Parliamentary information in structured formats.

Commitment Two: Youth Parliament

  • Strengthen school-aged students’ ability to pre-register to vote.

Commitment Three: School leavers’ toolkit

  • Use digital badging to support evaluation and measure student engagement
  • Publish English and Māori Medium civics education resources for teachers
  • Deliver training and support for teachers and evaluate schools/kura use of Toolkit.

Commitment Four: Making New Zealand’s secondary legislation readily accessible

  • Work with the Department of Internal Affairs to carry out Cabinet’s directive to explore options for making local authorities’ legislation and by-laws more accessible to users.

Commitment Five: Public participation in policy development

Commitment Six: Service design

  • Enforce implementation of the Digital Service Design Standard and assessment model
  • Evaluate whether government services are more responsive, open, citizen-centric and user-focussed as envisaged by the Design Standard and assessment model.

Commitment Seven: Official information

  • Publish the advice to Government on whether to initiate a formal Official Information Act (OIA) review and ensure the Minister’s commitment to re-write the OIA announced on 7 July, considers concerns raised by every NZ OGP IRM review
  • Measure and report to Cabinet on implementation of Milestone 3 (proactive release)
  • Develop a centralised government platform for proactive and OIA releases

Commitment Eight: Review of Government use of algorithms

  • Document all algorithms used by government and release the register
  • Complete charter, develop guidelines with the public and train across the state sector
  • Extend scope to open algorithms and implement new programme and milestones.

Commitment Nine: Increase the visibility of government’s data stewardship practices

Commitment Ten: Monitoring the effectiveness of public body information practices

  • Work with under-performing agencies to drive improved practices
  • Seek public feedback on whether this commitment’s objective has been met.

Commitment Eleven: Authoritative dataset of government organisations as open data for greater transparency

Commitment Twelve: Open Procurement

  • Work with the public and government agencies to cover all awarded government contracts and historial contract data and adopt the Open Contracting Data Standard.

These suggestions are collated from my IRM Design Report 2018-2020, which drew on  my 2019 and 2020 research and interviews with members of the public; the public comments on the draft NAP; my subsequent 2020 desktop research; NAP progress reports to the State Services Commission; and my March 2020 meetings with government commitment leads.

Of rare earths and referenda – A stark tale of corruption contrasts

Ferdinand Balfoort
Director
Topics: Anti-Corruption Pledges, Fundraising, Governance

Ferdinand Balfoort
TINZ Director

Two articles recently caught my eye, both with a direct relevance to my experience in audit and investigations, as well as to Transparency International’s anti-corruption efforts.

The first reported an investigation by the Swiss authorities into alleged corruption by Glencore in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). See Swiss prosecutors launch Glencore criminal probe over Congo. Shortly after the Global Financial Crisis hit last in 2008, I was approached by Glencore in Switzerland to take the role of Chief Internal Auditor at their DRC mines. The requirements were around testing of controls over mine operations and involved staying in Katanga for lengthy periods of time.

Due diligence revealed that the Katanga mine was losing revenues caused through artisanal mining by local villagers on Glencore property. It became clear that the Glencore audit mandate was quite narrowly focussed. It appeared to be essentially to protect the interests of Glencore against those of local villagers.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), mines operate in harsh work environments for the nearly 150,000 workers, supplemented by mining operations by the backbreaking work of an estimated 40,000 child labourers, according to Amnesty International.

Julien Harneis from Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

 

Villagers in DRC “survive” on around $ 1/day to feed their families. The country is ranked one of the poorest in the world. At the same time the DRC supplies substantial quantities of strategic materials to our modern society, such as copper and cobalt. There are strong allegations that the workers extracting this resource include children. It is not illogical to conclude that the villagers are acting to ensure their families survival.

I did not accept the proposed role, for obvious reasons. I knew that many extractive companies in Africa will engage in corruption – paying political elites to secure access to mining rights – causing a starkly contrasted redistribution of wealth between the villagers and the ruling elite. Where such corruption causes material wealth inequality, national governance is bound to fail, as we see again and again globally.

Accordingly, I was well pleased to see the latest referendum in Switzerland aimed to giving Swiss voters the final say on whether Swiss-based companies should be liable for human rights abuses and environmental violations outside Switzerland, See Swiss to vote on companies’ global liability for rights abuses

Consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental damage caused by the products they use and the use of child labour to produce them.

I have personal evidence of Swiss companies engaging in corrupt practices in Africa.

It is time that consumers start to make themselves heard to root out such problems to safeguard their fellow men.

Courtesy Alexander Andrews, Unsplash

Incidentally, if we considered using our mobile devices longer instead of purchasing new ones, we might assist in reducing such supply side corruption in Africa and equally address the growing landfill problem in New Zealand. This includes many of the personal devices we throw out to buy new ones.

It suggests that New Zealand and other OECD countries could in future have some of the richest repositories of rare earth and other strategic materials locked up in landfills.

We have a long way to go to redress the imbalance of importing rare earths in return for exporting corruption. New Zealand should consider a similar law to that being introduced in Switzerland. Applying NZ’s relatively high standards externally, could go a long way towards helping New Zealand move to a small but influential role in the import and export of corruption. (See Transparency International – Exporting Corruption Report.)

Remember next time you use your mobile device, that it likely includes materials and components obtained through corrupt practices.

TINZ Director positions – seeking interest

As part of its succession strategy, Transparency International New Zealand Inc. (TINZ) is providing advance notice of its Director election process for 2020, and is seeking expressions of interest from experienced Directors who wish to make a significant contribution to the governance of TINZ, to New Zealand society and to the Pacific. 

Five of the current Directors’ positions come to the end of a term this year, with at least one Director moving on. You can learn about all of the current Directors of TINZ here. Directors are elected by members at the AGM following a formal call for nominations in early October.

TINZ has also started the process of looking for a new Chair. 

The Personnel Committee of TINZ welcomes expressions of interest prior to the formal call for nominations on 1 October.  Expressions of interest should be made by email to the Chair of the Personnel Committee Brendon Wilson – bw@ti.org.nz. All enquiries will be treated confidentially.  This may be followed by discussions with potential candidates.  

Expressions of interest should be accompanied by:

  • a short bio highlighting areas relevant to this position including examples of governance and leadership experience
  • an explanation as to what interests you in becoming a Board Member including a statement about why you believe TINZ is important and relevant in New Zealand
  • a description of areas of expertise as well as confirmation of your willingness to commit time beyond the monthly board meetings, to assist with activities as they arise from time to time.  

A copy of the Position Description for a Board Director is provided below

TINZ is looking for a Project Manager

South Pacific Anti Corruption Network

Tēnā koe, Noa’ia, Mauri, Ni Sa Bula Vinaka, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Tālofa, Kia orana, Mālō e lelei, Mālō nī, Talofa lava,

We are looking for a Project Manager to manage our new project, ‘Developing a South Pacific Anti-Corruption Network‘ to focus on the South Pacific communities in New Zealand and reaching out to the Pacific. 

This is a part time contract position, based in Auckland or Wellington.

If you have project management experience, very good networking and influencing abilities in Pacific communities, can navigate and administer at the same time, and have a passion for promoting integrity, transparency and integrity with a Pacific perspective, then take a look at the job description.    The job description and application details are available on Do Good Jobs.   

Applications close 24 July 2020.

Human Rights: Global update and concerns related to COVID-19 pandemic

Joy Dunsheath

United Nations Association

The 44th Session of the Human Rights Council began on the 30th June with a statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  She presented a global update on human rights and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She urges states to “grasp the vital importance of this moment”. Without transparency, human rights are compromised and inequality may lead to greater corruption.  The COVID-19 pandemic is profoundly affecting peace and security across the globe.

“The pandemic should spur us to adopt strong, transformative measures to heighten the powerful protections that human rights based-policies can provide – by promoting public health, public confidence in official guidance, and greater social and economic resilience.

It urgently calls for leadership grounded in clarity, evidence and principle to protect the most vulnerable members of society, and to address the profound inequalities that are accelerating the pandemic’s incidence and impact.”

Michelle Bachelet’s full statement provides comments on the many component aspects of Human Rights, complete with country-specific developments.

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.

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. 

Submissions currently being sought

The following invitations to submissions known to, and 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. 

Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Bill

Overseas Investment Amendment Bill (No 3)

  • Deadline: Monday, 31 August 2020 (unconfirmed)
  • 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.

Reserve Bank Act Review – Consultation phase 3

  • Deadline: 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

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 . 

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