It shouldn’t be career ending to get done over by a crooked employee but it should mean you can’t be Auditor-Generalhttps://t.co/wvMn1dehUU
— Matthew Hooton (@MatthewHootonNZ) May 22, 2017
— nzherald (@nzherald) May 22, 2017
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.
█ 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.