The New Zealand public sector and judiciary has again been ranked the least corrupt in the world.
The Corruption Perceptions Index released today by Transparency International (a global anti-corruption organisation), ranks New Zealand first equal with Denmark, with a score of 87 out of 100.
Compiled annually, this index ranks countries worldwide by perceived levels of public sector corruption.
Over the past eight years New Zealand has vied with Denmark and Finland to be the first-ranked country with the least corrupt public sector.
Last year New Zealand came second to Denmark. Its score stayed at 87 out of 100 while Denmark dropped from 88 to 87.
The Chair of Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ), Suzanne Snively says there is much to celebrate about our trustworthy public service high ranking.
"We know fraud and bribery exists in New Zealand, and we see instances of this happening in central and local government. But we also know that when it is found out, serious wrongdoing is investigated and prosecuted. That is one of our strengths.
"Another strength is our multiple ways of deterring and detecting public sector wrongdoing. Our score would further improve if more resources were provided to oversight organisations like the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Financial Markets Authority (FMA) and local government, for their promotion of good conduct, and detection and prevention of corruption."
The global focus of the Corruption Perceptions Index this year is political integrity. Snively says that the 2020 national election provides a good opportunity to shine light on political integrity in New Zealand. "We must have high expectations of our national and local politicians. Any behaviour that tries to circumvent the electoral rules undermines the public's trust in politicians. It is also important to actively oppose the cynical manipulation of social media, as recently seen in the United Kingdom and the United States. A healthy democracy needs active public awareness and involvement."
TINZ has been arguing for a parliamentary code of conduct. "We expect more transparency around lobbying of MPs. And we think there is more that can be done to reduce the influence of funding from vested interests on political outcomes."
Internationally there are many examples of grand corruption involving senior parliamentarians or government officials. Recently corruption in Malaysia, Brazil, Sudan, the Republic of Congo and Mozambique has been exposed. Such corruption results in large scale deprivation for the population. Avoiding this requires both good integrity systems and strong-willed citizens.
"New Zealand has a number of good checks and balances on those who hold power. We have an independent and effective judiciary and we uphold the rule of law. We have strong interest in national elections. A country that has strong integrity systems and active participation of citizens is much more likely to be able to prevent and detect political corruption," notes Snively.
The Corruption Perceptions Index is an excellent tool for raising visibility to issues of international corruption. It is used worldwide for supporting trade and business decisions, directly helping New Zealand business' bottom line. New Zealand's businesses benefit from reduced corruption risk for better market access and ease of doing business.
New Zealanders as a whole, benefit because our high Corruption Perceptions Index ranking, endorses our values of integrity and fairness.
It is imperative that we continue to improve our public sector integrity, and not let our score slip. We know the value of integrity to our business and our social wellbeing. All New Zealanders will experience enduring benefits of enhanced wellbeing if our government can avoid complacency by continuing to improve on our top of world anti-corruption performance.