Sunday, 26 December 2010

stunning recklessness, excess and greeed

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Three years after the Global Financial Crisis picked up speed, New Zealand looks pretty soft on corporate crime. 

"The recklessness, excesses and greed have been stunning. But, until Five Star directors Nicholas Kirk and Marcus MacDonald were this week jailed for lying to investors, not a single finance company executive had spent a single night behind bars."

Bernard Hickey is Managing Editor of business news site, Interest, one of the few commentators offering criticism of efforts against fraud and other white collar crime that makes up the bulk of cases in New Zealand


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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Wong inquiry 'not warranted' - AG - National - NZ Herald News

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Pansy Wong announces her resignation this morning. Photo / Mark Mitchell


New Zealand's Auditor-General Lyn Provost says she will not investigate alleged abuse of a Parliamentary travel perk by former minister Pansy Wong.

"It will do more 'public good' for Government to adopt the recommendations of a report tabled today on improving serious flaws in the entire ministerial spending system, she says."

Left unsaid was any word on whether conflicts of interest in promoting her husband's private business constitute corruption. Or whether they profited from that conflict of interest.

The AG's decision compares with a six year sentence given to one of only a few Polynesian MPs, Phillip Taito Field, after he got an Asian immigrant to tile a property of his, in Samoa.


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Monday, 13 December 2010

Update 100-year-old law, says SFO - National - NZ Herald News

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Slated for dismantling under the previous Labour government, the New Zealand Serious Fraud Office is taking aim at corruption laws up to a century old.

"The Serious Fraud Office is signalling a greater focus on bribery and corruption and has asked the Government to review legislation dealing with such crimes, some of which is a century old" reports the New Zealand Herald.

They quote Feeley as saying their latest case exposes widespread shortcomings in New Zealand.

"There have been wider, and serious, issues raised by this investigation, including procurement processes in the public sector, the process for referring corruption allegations to law enforcement agencies, and the scope of New Zealand's bribery laws," Feeley told the daily.


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Thursday, 25 November 2010

new zealand growing up poorly

New Zealand performs poorly compared with other first world countries but the latest research ignores economic factors.

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Growing Up in New Zealand - a survey launched in 2008 - challenges "much rhetoric" about early childhood in so-called Godzone.

"Although a developed country, New Zealand faces real challenges in health, welfare and education, and
performs poorly in OECD rankings in several of these parameters."

Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Auckland says that more than 7,000 babies have been "recruited" into the study.

"Their parents have volunteered their time over the next 21 years to provide insights into their lives and those of their children."


First findings from the survey however point to politically sensitive outcomes.

"Information from the first of many interviews in this study challenges much of our traditional rhetoric about growing up in New Zealand," reads an executive summary of the 101 page report.

Study Director Susan Morton said there were "many" wonderful things about growing up in New Zealand, but added, there are also some "negative things" such as poorer health and school achievement among Māori and Pacific children and those from "impoverished families."


The initial research shows "inequality" among children before they are even born. It starts with the access their pregnant mums have to information and help.

"Nearly half of the mums in deprived areas were not aware of the Working for Families tax credit."

Despite highlighting that lack of financial information, the report only mentions economic factors four times, compared with 40 mentions for antenatal factors.


Previously identified as one of the most economically unequal countries in the OECD, New Zealand researchers however seem reluctant to question economic orthodoxies. Morton refers to "impoverished" families, in a message on the website, but the word does not appear in the study itself.

"Poverty" is mentioned once, in the appendix, considering "appropriate policy initiatives to address outcomes related to the wider influences on development including family structure and support, poverty and financial stress, social networks, cultural affiliation, physical environments and the media."

Even the word "poor" - as in 'performing poorly' - is not used in the economic sense. The only reference to OECD after the foreword refers to immunisation, not economics. Responses to the study findings via the Science Media Centre also ignore poverty.

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Sunday, 7 November 2010

company fraud nearly doubles in new zealand

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Corruption in New Zealand is on the rise, nearly doubling over last year as global financial crisis increases desperation at top corporate levels.

"The survey of about 200 groups, in both government and private sector, on both side of the Tasman showed the cost of fraud rose from an average NZ$1.9 million in 2008, to NZ$3.8m this year."

Interestingly, KPMG published the fraud survey in Australia and New Zealand, but not the US and the UK - sources of huge corporate fraud.

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Friday, 29 October 2010

nz pm gets update on suicide secrecy

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Secrecy rules surrounding suicide may be relaxed depending on reaction from government.
"The annual suicide rate in New Zealand is nearly 50 per cent higher than that of the road toll, figures show. The media is prohibited from reporting the circumstances of suicide unless the coroner allows it."
Strict secrecy has not resulted in fewer suicides. In world terms, New Zealand is among the top ten highest suicide rates for youth. Also stopped by secrecy laws is more public debate over why New Zealand is one of the world's few societies to suffer proportionally more youth suicide than adult. For the last 25 years in New Zealand, that society has been dominated by a hard right-wing economic ideology.


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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

minister just walks away

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Walking away from a potential long and expensive judicial conduct hearing leaves the New Zealand justice system exposed to dangers, warns capital newspaper, the Dominion Post, in an editorial.
"The danger for Ms Collins – and for the integrity of justice system – is that the lesson the public will take from the Wilson episode is that, when there is a problem involving the judiciary, shortcuts are taken, it is tidied away, and judges whose behaviour is questioned walk off with what Auckland University law expert Bill Hodge has described as "a very sweet package".
Justice minister Judith Collins, a National Party hardliner, announced the deal after a Supreme Court judge successfully challenged a special panel set up to hear complaints against him of conflicts of interest. The deal includes a salary payout nearing NZ$1 million.

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why NZ is not least corrupt in the world

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Ironically, New Zealand, one of three top ranked countries, does not even appear on the global map at Transparency International.  


Unionists and left-wing commentators have praised top ranking in a global corruption index - but a right-wing business paper describes the result as "dubious".

A poll on a mainstream media also reveal significant doubts about the ranking. 

Mixed reactions reveal a surprising twist to the frequently criticised CPI, Corruption Perceptions Index, by leading anti-corruption, Transparency International.

Only one media organisation sought public reaction to today's release of the global survey.

In a front page poll, TVNZ recorded a roughly half-half split between those who believe the CPI ranking - and those who don't.

Website visitors were asked if they "agree New Zealand is the least corrupt country in the world?"

"Yes, we're squeaky clean" was clicked on by 43% of those answering the poll question.

Some 57% - poll numbers were not given - clicked on "No, we're deluding ourselves."

The poll is half way down the TVNZ main page.

However, yet again, the survey failed to make the two main free-to-air news programmes, on TVNZ and TV3.

Perhaps the most damning figure came from an investment advisory service - noting that just a fifth of a percent of law and order spending of NZ$3.5 billion goes on serious fraud cases. Some 62 comments are recorded.

Meanwhile, the Public Service Association has grabbed the survey announcement as an opportunity to praise public service integrity in the face of slashed worker numbers.

"We've held the top spot on Transparency International's Index for five consecutive years," said PSA national Secretary Brenda Pilott.

"This shows our public services and those who work in them are a world-class asset and worthy of our thanks and respect."

"This top ranking is a great credit to New Zealand's public servants," says PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott.

"Despite the government slashing over 2,000 jobs, excessive workloads that continue to spiral out of control, numerous departmental reviews that bring stress and uncertainty, we've managed to retain our top ranking on Transparency International's Index. As well as indiscriminate cuts, agencies are coping with thousands of long-term vacancies that lump pressure on individuals, teams and ultimately services. So it really is commendable that we've kept on top."

The Dominion Post was another mainstream media organisation reporting doubts.

"Our biggest risk is our companies just don't care," says Alex Tan, director of Transparency International NZ.  

"Blasé – absolutely. When we talk about what they do overseas, they say, 'Oh, yes, we've got good policies'. 

"No, they don't. Only 44 per cent [of NZX 50 companies] have any policies that talk about bribery and corruption."

Only 10 percent actually prohibit "facilitation" payments.

Although New Zealand signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in 2003, it is one of only 18 countries not to have ratified it.

Mr Tan said 122 countries had signed and ratified the convention.

"For a country that consistently tops the CPI, the fact that seven years after signing [the convention] we still have not ratified it is somewhat hard to fathom."

High profile liberal blog, No Right Turn, noted that New Zealand actually dropped in ranking - from a score of 9.4 out of 10 to 9.3.

Controversial right-wing blogger, Whale Oil, makes damning reference to a lack of transparency on government tender contracts, including an insolvency agent buying stocks in failing companies he is supposed to be disposing of.

Collapse of finance companies, massive overcharging by telecommunications, power and supermarket companies, the resignation of a supreme court judge to avoid investigation, environmental degradation, and a series of botched cases pointing to police corruption are among a host of criticisms leveled against New Zealand, much from within the country. 

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Monday, 25 October 2010

OECD warning on Transparency International

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International governance indicators like the Transparency International "Corruption Perceptions Index" should be taken with a grain of salt, suggests the OECD, the world's largest economic club.

"Not only are the individual country scores provided by some of these systems less accurate than many users seem to assume, they reflect biases of which users are often unaware," reads the release.

In a press releasetitled the "transparency paradox", the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development highlights a "policy brief" released ahead of tomorrow's CPI figures. The OECD policy brief is by far the most heavyweight critique of the CPI in its 15 year history. Some suggest the survey reflects well known but relatively minor third world corruption at the expense of ignoring massive first world scandal.


Full release follows.





25 October 2010, Paris – Tomorrow, Transparency International will release its 15th annual Corruption Perceptions Index.  While not disputing the importance of these and other such international governance indicators, the authors of the OECD Development Centre's new Policy Brief "Measuring Governance" warn of a transparency paradox.  They urge potential users to be more inquisitive about the real contents and precision of all international governance rating systems, and more careful how they use them.


Not only are the individual country scores provided by some of these systems less accurate than many users seem to assume, they reflect biases of which users are often unaware.  The result can be misguided discrimination against developing and emerging economies not only by the many private international investors who use them, but by official aid donors as well.


'All international governance ratings systems are normative and imply a judgment. They are often not determined by an objective theory of what constitutes good governance, or of how to distinguish good from bad governance,' said Charles Oman, Head of Strategy at the OECD Development Centre. 'Governance indicators need to be transparent as official aid agencies often use them as a basis for their aid-allocation decisions.'


To access the new policy brief on "Measuring Governance" by The OECD Development Centre, please click here.

To speak to Charles Oman, please call: +33 (0)1 45 24 82 96.


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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

NZ giant rip off says All Black writer

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An All Black has joined a rugby writer in attacking the cost of living in New Zealand.

Justin Marshall, 36, agreed with rugby correspondent Peter Bills that New Zealand was an expensive country - and not just for visitors. Bills - sounding a caution ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup - said the prices of everyday articles had "horrified" him and Kiwis were "victims of massive overcharging". He said New Zealand was becoming "one giant rip-off".
Previously, power, phone, net and supermarket companies have been found to have over-charged by up to 500% - costing consumers billions of dollars.
Power alone is said to have cost consumers an extra $4 billion over a 10 year period. 


NZ really expensive, says All Black - National - NZ Herald News

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Spot the missing link

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by jason brown, 100% PNZC editor

Scroll down the list below and spot which country link is missing.

Offshore banks in Niue and the Cook Islands, staffed mostly by Kiwis, anyone?

Australia, the country we are supposed to be catching up to, according to Prime Minister John Key, leads from the front.

OECD anti-brbery signatories:

Country database: anti-corruption resources in the Initiative's member jurisdictions
The database on anti-corruption resources in the Inititative's member countries and economies is currently being updated, and the available countrysheets will be enhanced.

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new zealand faces quality question


by jason brown, 100% PNZC editor

Question: Way past time to review Qualmark?

One in four polled on TIB, the Tourism Industry Blog, do not support the official quality mark of New Zealand, Qualmark.

Qualmark does not even feature a complaints mechanism, and buries its code of ethics in a PDF that can only be found by specific search.

TIANZ has a code of ethics, and links to it, but does not provide any mechanism for "prompt handling of complaints" either. A "mood of the traveler" survey is anything but, focusing mostly on tourist spending habits, rather than their mood after travel.

However, perhaps indicative of mood is the fact that only three (3) destinations command more than a simple majority of confidence, as being places they would recommend to overseas visitors.

This represents a bare 11% majority satisfaction rate with the top 26 destination places for tourists.

Unlike TIANZ and MANZ, Qualmark does not have a social networking presence, offering a catchall feedback link that does not provide public accountability.

My interest in this topic comes after similar experiences as a quarter century career journalist in the Cook Islands, heavily dominated by New Zealand expatriates. Both they and the heavily kiwi influenced government spent years resisting calls for quality assurance surveys.

More recently, a friend from New Caledonia, non-European, had $1,000 charged to her card after departure from a Rotorua motel, allegedly for costs involved in cleaning services after a "bed bug infestation".

The motel in question, Cleveland Motel, is both a MANZ and Qualmark member but has refused to supply invoices or receipts to support their claim, and, after initially reversing their decision, still has not refunded the money.

Just to round out this dismal picture, MANZ does have a code of ethics linked from its front page, but has refused to accept a complaint under the code.

Some two dozen complaints about the motel are logged with Trip Advisor, but MANZ refuses to accept this or any other reason to take an official, formal complaint about one of their members, also refusing all further comment.

Answer to the opening question: Yes.

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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

farm sale decision behind closed doors

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A former human rights commissioner has attacked the media for claiming "racism" is behind criticism of farm sales in New Zealand.

Instead Bruce Slane suggests "powerful lobbyists " may be behind the closed door decision making.
"The review of policy is being conducted by the Treasury in secret. It invites submissions - but only a technical group made up of lawyers who act for overseas companies are allowed in on the debate."
Slane was human rights commissioner for 11 years, and calls on lobbyists like the Business Round Table, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Business New Zealand and the CTU "to make their submissions public."

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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

supreme court judge hearing


Hearings began today into a Supreme Court judge who sat on a case involving his own interests.

Rather than seek to clear his name, Justice Bill Wilson is legally challenging a decision to review his performance.

Virtually unreported is the fact that the case revolves around ownership of racing horses - in which the Chief Justice also holds shares.

The Supreme Court was set up in New Zealand in 2004, cutting off access to the Privy Council in the UK, despite widespread concerns about the integrity of the New Zealand justice system.


The future career and reputation of Supreme Court Judge Bill Wilson is at stake at a hearing which began in the High Court at Wellington today.

In the ground-breaking case, Justice Wilson is fighting to overturn a move by the Judicial Conduct Commissioner Sir David Gascoigne to have his behaviour examined by a panel.

An application is being heard by Justices John Wild, Forrest Miller and Graham Lang to set aside the commissioner's recommendations.

Justice Wilson, who is not in court, is being represented by Colin Carruthers, QC, who is arguing that the alleged misconduct has not been specified or shown to warrant the judge being removed from the bench.

The commissioner's unprecedented move came after he received complaints that Justice Wilson had not fully disclosed his personal and business relationship with Alan Galbraith, QC, while sitting on a Court of Appeal case in 2007.

Mr Galbraith, who was acting for a party in those proceedings, and Judge Wilson were partners in a horse breeding business.

The hearing is set down for three days."