Transparency Times June 2020

Tone at the top adds to Pacific attraction

From the Chair, June 2020

Tone from the top has made a huge difference to the wellbeing of people in the Pacific. In most Pacific countries, there have been no reported cases of the coronavirus and apart from Australia and New Zealand, there have been no recorded deaths.

Most Pacific countries banned essential travel in early February

In what seems like a long time ago, during the first week in February this year, most Pacific nations restricted access by travellers to and from their countries following the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China.

At that time, there were 14,000 reported COVID-19 cases and just over 300 people had died from COVID-19 in China. Yet Fiji and most other large Pacific-ocean countries had the foresight and political will to restrict air and cruise ship travel.

As early as 29 January, the health department in America Samoa had advised residents to postpone travel unless essential.

Its cousin to the west, Samoa, had the wisdom to require compulsory screening of all visitors at all ports of entry.

Travel restrictions have saved lives in the Pacific

These steps have been effective. As a result, many Pacific countries have had no reported cases of the virus.

Of the Pacific Island nations, only Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia and New Zealand still had active cases as of 1 June.

Now is the time to show tone from the top to stop corruption

Systemic corruption is a critical issue for the Pacific. This undermines good governance and has had the impact of hindering development in key institutions.

As the then Transparency International New Zealand Director, Fuimaono Tuiasau, said to the Pacific Corruption Seminar on the eve of the world Journalism Education Congress in 2016, “misuse of power is essentially what corruption is about in the Pacific.”

The impact of corruption on vulnerable groups and on people in general in the Pacific can be quite severe.

GDP Per Capita 2019 ($US)
Rank Country GDP Per Capita
10 Australia $53,825
23 New Zealand $40,634
50 Palau $14,066
86 Fiji $6,379
101 Tonga $4,862
105 Samoa $4,500
115 Tuvalu $3,834
116 Micronesia, Federated States of $3,717
120 Marshall Islands $3,592
125 Vanuatu $3,260
129 Papua New Guinea $2,742
136 Solomon Islands $2,246
147 Kiribati $1,574

Source: International Monetary Fund

Low levels of economic growth in the Pacific reflect inequality compared to many other countries.

These low levels of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita are reflected in the table compiled by the International Monetary Fund. It shows the US dollar amount for the year ended 2019. Only in Africa are GDP per capita levels lower.

Small Pacific countries have the opportunity to be large ocean countries

Yet there is so much potential. Pacific countries’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ)s, which extend to 200 nautical miles offshore, give them access to resources over a much larger area than their land area. For example, the Republic of the Fiji Islands has an EEZ of around 1,290,000 square kilometres. This is over 70 times its land area of around 18,300 square kilometres.

When all the exclusive EEZs are added together, the small Pacific nations become large Pacific-ocean counties. This is a strong base to be sending out the right messages to prevent corruption and build strong integrity systems.

Another area for strengthening integrity systems in Pacific nations is to address the transparency of political party funding and the media. This is essential to protect sovereign nations from the influence of large developed countries that are interested in fishing, mineral and other resources in Pacific EEZs.

Opening New Zealand’s bubble to the Pacific

As the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to reduce, expectations have risen about widening New Zealand’s bubble to include Australia.

Based on public data, it would be even safer to open up travel between New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours to the east. Doing so opens up glorious spaces to see our nearby world up close and experience life in radically different ways from our indoor locked-down spaces where we’ve been confined for the previous two months.

And by sharing political as well as living experiences while travelling in the Pacific, there are opportunities to work together to strengthen the integrity of our media and political parties, using the tone from the top to address two big “C”s – Corruption and COVID-19.

Suzanne Snively, ONZM

Chair

Transparency International New Zealand Inc.

TINZ Pacific programme

Julie Haggie
Chief Executive Officer
Transparency International New Zealand

Since its inception, Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) has been a strong advocate for Pacific anti-corruption efforts. It has run capacity-building and research programmes with Transparency International’s Pacific chapters for 15 years.

When funding ended, TINZ continued to advocate for anti-corruption support in the Pacific. This funding started again this year.

Most of the work we have done focussed on the chapters of Transparency International in Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Fiji until it lost accreditation. We have been acutely aware of the need for stronger voices for integrity and accountability in Polynesia. The low population numbers, poverty and remoteness make it more difficult to sustain chapters while corruption runs rampant.

Developing an anti-corruption network

TINZ is excited to now have the opportunity and some resource, to develop a South Pacific network focussing around anti-corruption and the benefits of transparency and integrity. The network will include organisations and individuals in the Pacific diaspora in New Zealand, while also connecting to South Pacific nations, and Fiji. The project, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), also includes further work with Integrity Fiji  and the development of a risk assessment tool for small nations.

The project aligns with the New Zealand government’s Strategic Intentions for the Pacific. This is to promote a stable, prosperous and resilient Pacific in which New Zealand’s interests and influence are safeguarded.

New Zealand’s impact is reliant on trusted relationships with Pacific communities. This also applies to the project that TINZ will deliver. In this one year project, we will be working hard to make every dollar count.

Consolidating the Pacific movement against corruption

TIPNG Executive Director, Arianne Kassman (Left) and Michael Macaulay from the Wellington School of Business and Government, were speakers at a plenary discussion during the Pacific Regional Conference on Anti-Corruption in Kiribati

Michael Arnold Communications Officer Transparency International PNG

In the face of stagnating Corruption Perceptions Index (TI CPI) scores across the Pacific over the past 4 years, leaders of the anti-corruption movement around the region convened in early February. They aimed to facilitate networking, information sharing and enhancing the resilience of Pacific island countries against corruption.

The conference, themed “Pacific Unity Against Corruption”, had a special focus on regional cooperation to develop effective anti-corruption strategies and frameworks in the Pacific.

The Conference gave leaders the opportunities to:

  • Strengthen anti-corruption networks across the Pacific

  • Share knowledge, experiences and best practices on the subject

  • Identify opportunities for regional cooperation and possible support by development partners towards the implementation of national anti-corruption strategies and the Sustainable Development Goals.

From Papua New Guinea (PNG), Transparency International PNG’s Executive Director, Arianne Kassman, was invited as one of two key presenters at the conference.

She highlighted the economic and social impacts of corruption on small island economies, in her presentation to Pacific leaders, invited representatives from the Commonwealth, youth and private sector.  

Her particular focus was on the impact of corruption on public service delivery.

In her presentation, she underlined a list of vulnerabilities in small pacific island countries, which have created significant barriers against the anti-corruption movement. These included;

  • Limited or no space for civil society

  • Lack of oversight of decision-making processes

  • Lack of an independent and free media

  • Lack of citizen participation as stakeholders in the democratic process.

The purpose of the conference was to integrate and align anti-corruption work carried out in the Region. Discussion topics centred around; the economic and social impact of corruption in the Pacific, combatting corruption to improve public service delivery, what a holistic anti-corruption framework looks like and the role of traditions and culture in fighting corruption.

While sharing recommendations on what needs to be done to minimise the impacts of corruption in the Pacific, Ms Kassman emphasised;

  • The need for stronger enforcement of existing law and conventions regarding corruption

  • Development and implementation of anti-corruption policies and standards

  • Protection of freedom of speech and the right to protest

  • Ensuring the independence of the institutions that provide the checks and balances such as the judiciary, police and the media.

TINZ works with CLCT Integrity Fiji on COVID-19 prevention

Joseph Veramu
CLCT Integrity Fiji

Joseph Veramu
Civic Leaders for Clean Transactions Integrity Fiji

When Lautoka City was locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic on 21 March, followed by Suva City on 3 April, many people especially youths, had only a vague idea of how the virus could spread and the ways it could be prevented.

While the Fijian Authorities did a superb job of providing advisories on smart phones, TV, radio and the print media on a regular daily basis, the information tended to be technical and couched in medical jargon.

Then more bad news arrived when Cyclone Harold devastated Fiji on 7 April. The Cyclone caused one death, dozens were injured and 2,000 left homeless.

To makes matters worse, fake news started circulating that 5G networks were the cause of our troubles!

Claire Johnstone, Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) member with delegated authory, came to the rescue. She posted two short YouTube videos produced for the New Zealand Police on our Youth For Integrity Facebook page. They were highly educational and very funny, providing information on COVID-19 in a more digestible format. We ‘boosted’ one of these educational videos and were happy with the 685 link clicks and ‘shares’ that resulted from it. Facebook data showed that 47,800 people had sighted the post.

Claire also had ‘chats’ with our young leaders. In one of her posts she said, “Wishing you all the best in these awful times of COVID-19 and the cyclone. One thing I wanted to share with you is there is some really silly information around that 5G is spreading COVID-19. If you hear that, please tell people that is wrong – humans transmit the virus so saying 5G does this is just plain stupid! Please encourage people to do their best to practice physical distancing and to stay away from large gatherings and wash their hands.”

TINZ CEO, Julie Haggie, was very helpful when we required background information on New Zealand’s response to COVID-19.

One Kiwi acquaintance of CLCT Integrity Fiji (Civic Leaders for Clean Transactions), Suzanne Douglas of the NZ Police Force, based in Suva City, was widely reported on local media serving tea and refreshments to Police manning checkpoints on windy cold nights.

Douglas wrote to me that, “It was such a pleasure to meet so many dedicated police officers. Fiji police are doing an amazing job and are getting the recognition they deserve.”

The New Zealand Government has provided assistance to Fiji for Cyclone Harold Relief and COVID-19 interventions, to the value of $7.7million.

There has also been very positive discussions between Australia and New Zealand on Fiji joining the Trans-Tasman Tourism Bubble.

CLCT-Integrity Fiji is deeply grateful to TINZ for all its support during this challenging period.

Doc Edge film festival

The 2020 Doc Edge festival “Life Unscripted” is online and nationwide in New Zealand from Friday 12 June until Sunday 5 July. This film festival offers international documentaries which explore themes including political integrity, public sector and private sector accountability, and the challenges of upholding truth in journalism.

Presentations with anti-corruption themes include:

This is not a movie, a well-structured representation of well-researched, factual information by foreign correspondent, Robert Fisk. In an era of fake news, when journalists are dubbed “enemies of the people”, Fisk’s belief in accuracy has only hardened. Toughened by his experiences, Fisk insists on maintaining an emotional distance from what he witnesses, arguing that you can’t report on an event if you’re completely overcome by it.

How to Steal A Country highlights the far-reaching corruption involving Jacob Zuma, then President of South Africa, that was discovered by a group of investigative journalists.  “It is the whistle-blowers who are the real, and largely unsung heroes”, according to the Director, Rehad Desai, and Co-Director, Mark Kaplan.

The film Influence investigates the rise and fall of Bell Pottinger, the public relations company which campaigned for Jacob Zuma.  Using a blend of archival footage and interviews, filmmakers Diana Neille and Richard Poplak investigate how Lord Tim Bell and his associates developed methods and tools to interfere with democratic processes and foster fake news.

Winner of the Best Documentary award at the Cannes Film Festival, The Cordillera of Dreams was directed by Patricio Guzmán. He fled Chile after being threatened with execution during the rule of corrupt dictator Augusto Pinochet.  Video Librarian: “Recommended! A fitting capstone to the director’s elegy for Chile’s tortured past that restates the trilogy’s fundamental point: like the Andes, the nation survives, but people must remember their past.” 

Further details are set out on the Doc Edge website.

Definition of transparency

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

John Hall

TINZ Director

Civics & Human Rights

Transparency is a complex and nuanced word.

For someone making a career out of contesting the meaning of words, I have only belatedly and recently arrived at a definition of ‘transparency’ that I am comfortable with. For those in society who are not paid to and do not enjoy playing with the complexities of vocabulary, what is transparency?

Transparency International (TI) defines transparency as “shedding light on shady deals, weak enforcement of rules and other illicit practices that undermine good governments, ethical businesses and society at large”. So, for TI, ‘transparency’ is an active word, even a verb. Corruption, meanwhile, is defined as “abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” That is a little easier to understand.

Part of the reason why we struggle to understand transparency is that there are so many things we want to associate with it. Honesty, democracy, justice, culture, leadership, trust, the rule of law, even sustainability. Is there really a common thread between these disparate concepts? Or are we attempting to conflate all our modern concepts of virtue into one word?

As far as I’m concerned, we can get to a better place by simply turning that definition on its head. Transparency definitely includes the use of public power for public good. It also has an element of public figures being worthy of public trust. Others have identified the importance of collaboration, honesty and reasonableness.

Therefore, I suggest that Transparency is when society can trust leaders to use power for social good.

One of the key words in this definition is “trust”. Trust already occurs in TI’s definition of corruption where the abuse of trust that is being highlighted. The motivation is private gain and the means is power.

Trust is defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. As used here, trust is earned – not blind but active, and maintained through open and honest behaviours. Organisations such as Transparency International help monitor trust.

Power has a unique relationship with language and words. As much as knowledge is power, the ability to use power is related to fluency in its vocabulary and grammar. But language not only acts as a means of common understanding but also distinguishes those who do not understand, from those who do.

I don’t think we should stop thinking about the different parts of transparency. But we should be able to express it all in simple words.

The definition again: Transparency is when society can trust leaders to use power for social good.

Anti-corruption Pledge Tracker update

Ferdinand Balfoort
TINZ Director

In partnership with Transparency International (TI) UK and TI chapters around the world, Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) is tracking the New Zealand government’s progress in implementing its commitments made during the 2016 London Anti-Corruption Summit.

TI UK created the Anti-corruption pledge tracker in 2017 and has maintained it since. This tool visualises and documents progress made following the summit. The latest update was released in May 2020.

In this version, the design team has modified the data presentation to align directly to the 11 commitments made by New Zealand during the Anti-Corruption Summit.

Of the 11 commitments, we are able to report that 5 are complete, 4 are ongoing (started and open ended), and 2 are underway (started with an end date).

It is common for country leaders to move on to their next challenge, even when the last has not yet been completed. A strong case can be made for the pledges to continue to be a focus of governments.  This tool is a mechanism to regularly scrutinise governments to ensure accountability in their fulfilment of their promises.

Governments that attended the London Summit did not adopt any formal mechanism for implementation of the Summit commitments. Civil society’s role in ensuring countries are held accountable, has proven to be vital.

It is also important that Governments recognise the ongoing nature of the fight against corruption requires ongoing action. Completion of commitments does not mean the fight is over. It indicates the need to look for more ambitious objectives.

 

Trust, transparency and values during COVID-19 recovery

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

John Hall

TINZ Director

Civics & Human Rights

Like many people, I have been pleasantly surprised by the manner in which parts of our government have attempted full and frank disclosure of the COVID-19 situation to the public.

This has been a struggle dictated by public knowledge. In many ways our continuing ability to beat both the public health and economic aspects of this crisis are predicated on ensuring the public understands the risks and mitigation strategies.

As we move past the epidemic and into recovery, there is an ongoing need for legislative and policy innovation. We just don’t want to forget our values in the excitement of doing new things.

Recovery requires trust and transparency

Yet, often as a country we handle crises but fail in handling recovery. Recovery from this particular crisis is an economic challenge of significant proportions.

The public is very far from understanding how the government has suddenly found enough money to finance all the aid it is distributing. That is to say: nothing of understanding what the limits to that liquidity are, how private spending impacts it, or what factors need to be taken into account in forming an opinion on how that money might be best spent.

These considerations are what we entrust politicians and bureaucrats to understand and evaluate. A great deal of complex and, at times, privledged information will be weighed up to find the right balance. This is the very reason society needs to choose the few representatives it can trust.

We also need our public servants to explain why and to justify our trust. This will require an explanation of the basic concepts that lie behind economic considerations.

Maintain our values

This is a time where we also need to ensure that the economic resources that previous generations have worked hard to build, are properly protected.

One example is the likelihood that areas of private enterprise will need to come under greater public control as they depend on public money to recover from the COVID crisis. In this situation, it is important to ensure that such enterprises also remain open to private investment through public listing so that they can become self-sustaining again in the future.

This is also a time when we can explore new ways of encouraging economic transparency. For example, this crisis has exposed firms that have taken advantage of our corporate legislation to employ workers in New Zealand through NZ companies that did not own the capital necessary to be considered solvent.

We can be bold now, but we need to keep our nerve and our values.

New Zealand Community Archives

Dr Eric Boamah
President of ARANZ

Dr Eric Boamah

President

Archives and Records Association of New Zealand (ARANZ)

The vast collection of New Zealand’s central and local government archival material is stored in the many archives, libraries, museums and other repositories throughout the country. The wealth and protection of this material is reliant on providing public access to it and the resultant evidence of its worth by such access. While much of the material has a high information value, it also has an evidential value, which can be utilised to protect people’s rights and ensure openness to transactions of groups from local councils to the Government. 

Archives New Zealand confirmed this year that they will no longer be maintaining its ‘Community Archives’ site which was struggling to maintain a reliable inventory of archived material. Instead they have offered a listing of institutions. This fails to serve the purpose that many contributors want.

A critical opportunity

The Archive and Record Association of New Zealand (ARANZ) believes the current situation provides a unique opportunity to better promote records and archives and their use. It is determined to prove a positive way forward for all parties to reinvigorate the archive and records network, for documenting the activities and philosophies of New Zealand past, present and future. 

Historical vision

One problem people have in accessing and using the wealth of material is to locate it. To combat this major barrier to access, the National Register of Archives and Manuscripts (NRAM) was established in 1979 by the then National Archives. This allowed institutions and private collectors to list their collections. This not only greatly assisted researchers to search for sometimes obscure collections, but also to locate materials in repositories that would not seem to be a logical home. By this means, institutions could also advertise their very existence in pre-internet days.

In 2005, NRAM, now rebranded as the Community Archive, was updated into a digital format by Archives New Zealand, for both government material and other significant collections. Many reasons for its failure included difficulty for repository organisations to directly update their material as intended.

Pivotal role of Community Archives

Community Archives had a pivotal role to connect information with those that require it. It provided valuable support to community groups to broadcast their collections and thereby add to the documentary heritage of the country. Without access to the full record, scholarship will be unable to present a clear and full picture of New Zealand and how large events or changes in philosophy affected the country as a whole.  

Strategy for a new platform

ARANZ, community institutions and users of records, have expressed their concern at the lack of a vehicle to promote records and their locations. As an advocate of archives and records, ARANZ believes it has a duty to devise a means to ensure the vision of NRAM is continued and supported.

ARANZ will canvass their members and contact other stakeholders, including smaller repositories and those institutions that have the preservation of records as a minor aspect of their core activities. With a clear strategy, ARANZ will then work with Archives NZ, the holders of the information, to instigate a new platform to provide a successful outcome for all involved.

Contributions are welcome to preserve our archives

This is an ongoing project and ARANZ would be interested in the ideas or comments of your group. For further information, contact Dr Eric Boamah, President@aranz.org.nz, Phone: +64 4 9155858 Mobile: +64 226820537, https://www.aranz.org.nz/

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:

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. 

Inquiry into the operation of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020

  • Deadline: Sunday, 7 June 2020 for written submissions from oral submitters
  • Deadline: Sunday, 28 June 2020 for other written submissions
  • Submissions are invited by The Finance and Expenditure Committee
  • This inquiry is intended to scrutinise the legislation setting out the legal framework for COVID-19 alert level 2 that was passed under urgency.

Overseas Investment Amendment Bill (No 3)

  • Deadline: Monday, 31 August 2020
  • 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 June 2020. To view by topic, visit the category page which lists TINZ topics and respective current subject matter experts.