Wednesday, 16 November 2011

New Zealand aid transparency rates poorly

New Zealand ranks 12th on a list of countries whose aid transparency is rated as "poor". News media coverage is similarly impoverished. 

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Two days after the Aid Transparency Index released its first "pilot" review of global donor systems, mainstream New Zealand media have yet to pick up on the country's poor rating.

Only Yahoo News, Voxy and Scoop news agency carried reports, all based on a press release claiming the index "hailed" the World Bank as the "best performer".

Least worst might be more accurate.

Ratings range only from fair, through moderate and poor, to "very poor" - with apparently no rankings for 'good' or 'very good.'

New Zealand is ranked at 12th worse on a list of 25 countries whose aid transparency is rated as "poor", and 30th overall. As with a number of other indexes, New Zealand rates lowly compared with governance leaders elsewhere, notably western European countries, mostly Scandinavian.

News media in New Zealand are not alone in ignoring the new index.

At post publication, mainstream news media in Australia are yet to report the index, at all, with civil society organisations barely better.

Worldwide, barely a dozen articles show up on Google News, with most coverage on the aid index coming from the United Kingdom, prompting debate in the House of Lords.

Primary conclusions from the pilot 2011 Aid Transparency Index :
> Most aid information is not published
> Information is produced but not always published and is far too hard to access and use
> Achieving aid transparency is possible
Primary recommendations :
> Increase political will and action – using the Aid Effectiveness Agenda as a springboard
> Organisations should publish what they have, build systems to collect what they don’t and make sure it is all accessible
> Aid actors must rally round the common IATI standard and increase its coverage
Aid Transparency Index about us.

> corrections > updates > new zealand ranking changed from 40th to 30tt

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Monday, 15 August 2011

NZ streamlines ethics process

Flying the flag : or are New Zealand ethics fraying in the wind ?

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New Zealand is moving towards faster ethics approval for pharmaceuticals.

The move has raised eyebrows among those concerned at the country's reputation for a lack of regulation and related potential for corruption.

New Zealand Doctor noted the news on a page of items dealing with tighter corruption controls here and overseas:
Ethics committee recommendations "sensible" - Hutchison
National MP and Parliament's Health Committee chair Paul Hutchison told conference attendees the Government viewed the recent enquiry recommendations on 
improving ethics committees as "pretty sensible stuff".
It was clear from submissions from committees that a raft of practical changes was needed - eg, speedier processes, a clearinghouse, smaller committee size and an option to add expert members.
Industry submitted it was "blindingly obvious" clinical research was important for New Zealand, whether in medical devices, pharmaceuticals or functional foods, he says.
The call to streamline ethical approval was echoed by many at the conference, including Christchurch Clinical Studies Trust director Richard Robson.

The site also noted that the Serious Fraud Office had created a new position of general manager, fraud and corruption, further distancing the office from moves by the former Labour government to change focused to so-called "organised" crime or gangs.
"Asked about companies sponsoring a researcher to present results to a conference, he says if the hospitality is disproportionate, it can be seen as being intended to foster sales or to inappropriately obtain or retain business." 

Government spends more than $13 billion a year on health care, with some $700 million going on pharmaceuticals, according to Pharmac figures, representing the lowest level of spending on health care and drugs in the developed world.

This is despite New Zealand being one of only two countries in the world allowing direct to consumer marketing, the other being the United States, which spends more than $7,000 per person, compared to less than half that here.

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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Little or no corruption law enforcement

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New Zealand is among 21 of 37 countries across the developed world which have "little or no enforcement" of anti-corruption laws, reads a new report.

The report comes from Transparency International, the world's leading anti-corruption organisation.

Unlike similar reports of a global nature, the TI report last year named names, but could not do the same this year:
"One case and one investigation were initiated in 2010 but no details are available. In the 2010 report two investigations were reported. The first was an investigation of SP Trading Limited. This case involved a New Zealand shell company allegedly implicated in the sale of 35 tonnes of North Korean explosives and anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. The police and the Serious Fraud Office undertook an investigation, which has been completed without any resulting prosecution. The second investigation concerned possible involvement of a New Zealand company in connection with allegations that Hewlett Packard had paid bribes to secure a contract in Russia. According to the TI expert, government officials have indicated that New Zealand’s involvement in that investigation has ended."
As well as a lack of enforcement, TI said that experts had again "found significant inadequacies in the legal framework for prohibiting foreign bribery."

Problems highlighted in the report involving New Zealand include:
Inadequate resources.
Decentralised or uncoordinated enforcement.
Inadequate complaints system and/or whistle-blower protection.
Lack of awareness-raising.
Lack of access to information about the number of foreign bribery cases.
Information on status of cases and other details is not systematically accessible.
The report appears to show that New Zealanders object to allegations of corruption - including the TI "expert" who is said to have stated that "criticism is not warranted" when it comes to New Zealand bribery overseas.

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Sunday, 15 May 2011

NZ role in drugs, arms and tax scams

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Companies registered in New Zealand have attracted attention from authorities worldwide for years, long before prime minister John Key started talking about turning New Zealand into a finance centre

One longish running story concerns a Vanuatu representative and long time Kiwi Geoffrey Taylor. December 2009 saw Taylor exposed, first by a former Navy intelligence officer, in the WMR or Wayne Madsen Report, and then by the Times Online as being behind a New Zealand registered company involved with arms exports from North Korea on a massive Russian air transport, stopped in Bangkok.

Now the Sydney Morning Herald has done a follow up, ending on this note:

New Zealand company records show that snuggled up inside Bristoll Export is yet another shell company that can be traced via Panama to an unrelated offshore banking firm in Cyprus operated by a former Russian diplomat. Further evidence, perhaps, of an even more impenetrable labyrinth.

Entitled "
Inside the shell: drugs, arms and tax scams", the piece raises serious questions about how easily companies can be set up in New Zealand, a practice praised as "business-friendly" by organisations like the OECD, apparently without regard to ongoing costs in crime and corruption.

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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Justice should prevail in Urewera 18 jury decision

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Moves by the National Party government to limit jury trials appear to be moving ahead against increasing opposition.

Commentators are warning legal changes made in 2007 threaten the credibility of New Zealand justice.

"... unless the Supreme Court puts its collective foot down and sends this political and controversial case to trial by jury, it runs the risk that a dangerous precedent will be set which will further erode public confidence in the judicial system."

This comment New Zealand Herald columnist Fran O'Sullivan, marks increasing criticism from mainstream media who previously lavished praise on the John Key party.

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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Fraud barometer hits record $100m as big cases reach court


Corporate fraud AKA white collar crime continues to sky rocket in New Zealand, but most attention stays focused on much smaller amounts of benefit fraud.

"KPMG New Zealand head of forensics Stephen Bell yesterday said the large jump in frauds in the second half of last year was mainly because of a number of large cases involving multi-million dollar frauds, including cases prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office."

Meanwhile, politicians continue to ignore the problem with the SFO continuing to fall behind in its case load.

Most political and mainstream commentary focuses instead on a relatively small amount of benefit fraud - at $16m last year, less than 10% of corporate corruption.


Police staff set to help fraud office tackle backlog - Business - NZ Herald News

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An increase from $5 million to $7.4m for the SFO, Serious Fraud Office, is still not enough to handle corruption in New Zealand.

SFO is now asking for a revival of secondment schemes from police.

New Zealand Herald reports the background:

"The SFO faced abolition between September 2007 and October 2008 until the election of the National-led Government. The Labour Government it took over from had wanted to merge the SFO with the new police Organised and Financial Crime Agency, which National opposed at the time."

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