Topical debates on Corruption in New Zealand

At Twitter:

Other media items:
22.5.17 Can the Auditor-General be trusted to combat corruption?
21.2.17 NZH: Ex Ministry of Transport manager jailed for $726k fraud
26.8.16 Former Ministry of Transport fraudster denied bail


Read Bryce Edwards’ full opinion piece linked below, and the associated reference links.

It’s Worth Your While Dunedin
Because you know instances of this bigger story, and you know them well.

The following is an abridgement.

This website has bolded some words provided by Mr Edwards and the commentators he cites. Words that bloggers increasingly have a ‘steam problem’ to include in everyday use of the English language.

So much for district heating schemes, eh.

### NZ Herald 2:48 PM Tue May 23, 2017
Political Roundup: The unaccountability of elites
By Bryce Edwards
OPINION —How much accountability is there in New Zealand politics and public life? Not enough, it seems, going on recent controversies. Mistakes by those in authority can lead to disasters and misfortunes of various magnitudes. Yet a number of recent examples – ranging from the Pike River tragedy through to the Havelock North water contamination crisis – suggest that there is often a worrying lack of consequences or accountability for the authorities involved.
Following on from yesterday’s Political Roundup column about managers failing to prevent serious fraud in a government department (Can the Auditor-General be trusted to combat corruption?); an obvious question is whether New Zealand has a culture in which there’s a lack of accountability for elites who make serious mistakes.
This need for this question is further underlined by Peter Newport’s strongly argued opinion piece, Is fraudster Joanne Harrison’s old boss really fit to lead NZ’s top public watchdog? In this must-read piece published yesterday, Newport details all of the whistle-blowing attempts to alert Ministry of Transport managers to the crimes being committed in the government department, and how those whistle-blowers then lost their jobs, seemingly as a result. Reading Newport’s account, it seems that much of the fraud was entirely preventable. He asks: “Where was human resources? The Public Service Association? The police? The SFO? The auditor general? The chief executive? This all happened in a modern New Zealand government ministry. In the full light of day.”
He concludes that “the chief executive, and his successor, have consistently refused to properly investigate either what she got away with or the further systemic failings behind the scenes… It’s disgusting. Where does the buck stop and who gets the whistle-blowers their jobs back?”
Part of New Zealand’s democratic deficit relates to a lack of a culture of accountability in public life and governance. According to Karl du Fresne, “Accountability, the long-established principle that someone should be seen to take responsibility for serious mistakes, is frequently talked about but rarely practiced” – see his column, Accountability the price of keeping the system honest. He makes some important points about the apparent decline in standards of accountability in political and public life in New Zealand, pointing out that the end result, is “public confidence in ‘the system’ continues to be steadily eroded.” This is a major democratic problem, says du Fresne: “If no one ends up accepting personal responsibility and incurring a penalty, there’s little incentive to make sure it doesn’t happen again. […] Part of the problem is that “genuine political commentary and critical analysis in New Zealand has been eroded almost to the point of non-existence over the past few decades”. This is the view of Bob Gregory of the Victoria University of Wellington, who links the decline of accountability to the decline of public debate and information…..
So, does all of this lack of accountability mean that New Zealand is possibly more vulnerable to corruption than people assume? This is discussed by former parliamentary staffer Grant McLachlan in his opinion piece, NZ should raise the bar on corruption. McLachlan suggests that New Zealand isn’t well protected from corruption: “Our processes to deal with corruption are flawed. […] When a judge in our highest court doesn’t declare a conflict of interest, the Attorney-General shouldn’t offer the judge a golden handshake to save the taxpayer the cost of an inquiry. When a dodgy mine explodes killing 29, out-of-court payments should not influence the dropping of a prosecution. The Protected Disclosures Act was meant to protect good faith whistle-blowers when reporting ‘serious wrongdoing’. Poor internal processes, however, have resulted in witch-hunts and whitewashes.”
Finally, does the culture of misinformation and opaque politics play a part in limited accountability? Graham Adams thinks so, and says that there’s good reason for being appalled by the deception that comes out of government these days. He says “Kept in the dark and fed endless bullshit, it’s difficult for even engaged citizens to make sense of much in New Zealand’s public and political life” – see: Information underload: We’re all mushrooms now.
Read more

█ Bryce Edwards, until recently a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago, researches and critiques New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on ‘Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation’. He is currently working on a book entitled ‘Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power’. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

This post is offered in the public interest.



Filed under Business, Corruption, Democracy, Education, Finance, Hot air, Media, Name, New Zealand, OAG, Ombudsman, People, Perversion, Politics, Public interest, SFO, Travesty

10 responses to “Topical debates on Corruption in New Zealand

  1. Ray McKendry

    Are you accountable Bryce? In what way? Because you certainly belong to the elite ivory tower grouping who get given taxpayers money to teach our children to be rebellious against legitimate authority and criticise anyone who does not agree with them. Snowflakes result.

  2. Elizabeth

    In my view Mr Edwards has performed a public service with this opinion piece. Do not shoot the messenger.

    • Peter

      Thank you, Elizabeth, for bringing this article to our attention.
      It was written so far away in Wellington, from what l gather, but its context felt so close to home. I could almost feel the heat blasting up from town like a hot summer northerly.
      As a director on Transparency International NZ l hope Bryce Edwards has some good old yarns from his old hometown.

  3. Rob Hamlin

    Perhaps the best way to think about this issue is to compare it to the human body’s immune response system. Corruption is akin to an infectious disease, which if left unchecked is rapidly fatal to the host. For this reason most healthy developed societies have some form of immune response to corruption which contains, localises it and then eliminates it. Such ‘scandals’, like the human boils and pimples they resemble, are highly visible, unsightly and occasionally painful, but fundamentally superficial and not deleterious to health – indeed they are a ‘healthy’ symptom….Even the carbuncle that is Trump.

    New Zealand appears to have few visible suppurating pimples, which may make it look attractive to those that devise global corruption indices. But in my view and experience this external ‘peaches and cream’ complexion does not mean that it is healthy. Far from it in fact. Over the last ten years, my personal experiences, and the witnessing of those of others, have led me to form the view that New Zealand now simply has no operational immune response to corruption, and that as a result it (corruption) is not contained, but has entered the very bloodstream of this society spreading its disease far and wide through its organs.

    In such a generalised human infection, immune response organs such as the lymph nodes can cease to be an agent of protection, and become instead a haven and distribution centre for the infection. Many successful pathogens are successful because they specifically target these organs, thereby compromising the immune response. Once they are compromised, other pathogens can then also exploit the unprotected tissues. It isn’t AIDS that kills you – It’s the fellow traveller pathogens riding on behind HIV that do that. Neither is an AIDS death a conspiracy – It’s just an outcome of the activities of a well networked group of fellow short-term opportunists working within an organism towards the same general but individual extractive objectives.

    Comparisons between the behaviour and outcomes of AIDS pathogens and New Zealand’s equivalent corruption immune response organs can be drawn – and my own experiences and observations now lead me to draw them. I now personally believe that ‘They’ will not do anything about this situation, because now there is no ‘Them’ – Not any longer.

    Only the most desperate remedies are effective at this point, and even then they may not be. It is unlikely that any effective remedy could be encompassed by the law as it is written and administered at the moment, as one could reasonably suppose that any well established general infection would have effectively neutralised the relevant aspects of both parts of this protective organ too.

    It is any whistelblower’s personal tragedy that almost by definition they have not yet paddled around in the suppurating quagmire that now appears to represent this immune response for long enough to reach that conclusion. If they had, then they would not do it – at least from within an organisation that could do them harm. Most whistleblowers seem to be below 45, which is the age at which my education in this particular area began.

    After all, who are they whistling at? Well ‘Them’, of course! All they will get back is an echo…at best. (See above paragraph). It is perhaps the most alarming development of all when corruption itself seems to have reached the point where it is able to develop and effectively deploy its own immune response system to cleanse itself by the elimination of the dangerous pathogen of honest agents.

    • Peter

      Interesting analogy, Rob, concerning the human immune system and corruption.
      I can see how certain individuals who take up an important role in managing the system initially do their best to reform it. Too often, somewhere along the line, they lose impetus and take fright. Either from being harried by the corrupt ones or they compromise themselves. In turn they find themselves protecting those whom they once resisted. They become part of the problem. For those with a conscience, deep down, it takes a while to witness signs of the toll it is taking on them. For example, one may find their personal life has become a mess. Tragic, but they have lost because they have lost themselves.
      We can also see how paranoia sets in and they see threats, real and imagined, from certain individuals and organisations. So often, as a result, they attempt to kill off the threat by trying to shut it down. This sets off a more underground movement to reform the system. The attempt to silence always fails because people won’t stand it. It also puts those who try to manage threats in a bad light and, ironically, life both at work and home becomes tougher for them.

  4. Gurglars

    Bryce Edwards poses the correct questions. But who has the answers.

    We in Dunedin have had more than our fair share of public scandals, 152+ cars, Delta, stadium debt, Fulton Hogan’s lack of a mudtank cleaning truck.

    So if we could get simple accountability, we would go a long way towards a more utopian Dunedin.

    {Moderated. -Eds}

  5. I agree that there are concerns that New Zealand is not the ‘corruption-free’ paradise that people have been led to believe. Or maybe things have changed over the last thirty years. What worries me most are persistent rumours of corruption in the judiciary. This is a higher level of the perennial worry about ‘Who will guard the guards?’ We have seen that the police needed policing. Do New Zealanders also have the worry that some of our judges need ‘judging’?

    • Elizabeth

      Suggest, go to Lauda Finem website to see where the debate is happening over the judiciary. This is old news, sadly. Small country, twisty connections eg STS appeal for starters. Or Yaldhurst….

    • Observer

      Judges needing judging is more than a worry, it’s a reality that’s covered up like the corruption that comes before them.

      Lawyers advise those that are corrupt how to conceal and get away with it. Lawyers protect fellow lawyers when these frauds are exposed at the loss of their defrauded client. Lawyers become judges. Judges protect the legal industry from this involvement and design of frauds against citizens by considering them “commercial decisions”. Yet what fraud or theft or corruption is NOT a “commercial” decision?

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