New Zealand implements National Strategy to fight corruption

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Wellington, February 20, 2021

(RNZ Photo by Alexander Robertson)

As the Government rolls up its sleeves for its 2021 workload, a number of initiatives are underway that demonstrate that anti-corruption is an important agenda item.

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) is keeping watch on these ongoing efforts and will be advocating where it can.

National Financial Crime and Corruption Strategy

Cross-sector work to develop a National Financial Crime and Corruption Strategy is underway, led by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The Strategy is a priority for the Justice Sector Leadership Board, made up of CEOs of the Ministry of Justice, Police, Crown Law Office, Corrections Department, SFO and Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children).

TINZ has long pushed for this; we recommended a National Anti-Corruption Strategy in our National Integrity System Assessment. We will follow developments on this closely.

The objective is to “combat growing opportunities for corruption and serious financial crime arising from rapid social and technological change.”

A key component will be to design an end-to-end financial crime and corruption education, prevention, detection and prosecution system. 

General information on this strategy is available in the Briefings to Incoming Ministers (BIM) from the Serious Fraud Office and the Justice Sector Leadership Board.

Fraud Fighting Fund

The SFO has received $3.87 million over three years from the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund to lead fraud and corruption prevention activities across government.

The SFO’s BIM acknowledges that a key challenge for it is to respond effectively to financial crime and corruption related to Covid-19 recovery programmes.

Despite New Zealand’s reputation, fraud and deception is the second most common type of offence in the country. The estimated total number of fraud and deception incidents in 2018-19 was 310,000, making up 18% all crimes and 27% of personal crimes.

This equates to eight offences per 100 adults.

Fraud and deception also had the highest rates of re-victimisation.

Hosting APEC-Act-Net

On February 18, 2021, New Zealand virtually hosted the Eighth Plenary Meeting of the Network of Anti-Corruption Authorities and Law Enforcements Agencies (ACT-NET), a working group within the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organisation.

The functions of ACT-NET are to establish an inter-economy network connecting regional anti-corruption and law enforcement officers; to share experiences, case studies, investigative techniques, tools and practices; and to provide an informal platform for bilateral or multilateral case cooperation.

The meeting was chaired by Graham Gill, Deputy Chief Executive, Corporate & Strategy of the Serious Fraud Office. In August 2021, TINZ expects to attend a planned joint APEC/OECD webinar about preventing corruption during crises.

Statutory Review of AML Legislation

The statutory review of the Anti-Money Laundering Legislation will start in mid-2021.

This review is built into the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 which places obligations on New Zealand’s financial institutions, casinos, virtual assets service providers, accountants, lawyers, conveyancers and high value dealers to detect and deter money laundering and terrorism financing.

Reviews of Commitments

Several of New Zealand’s international Anti-Corruption Commitments are subject to regular review. They include the following: 

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog – is currently in the process of assessing New Zealand.

The evaluation will be considered by the plenary this month and confirmed later in 2021.         

UNCAC – New Zealand has submitted its self-assessment as the first part of a review of its commitments under the United  Nations Convention against Corruption.

TINZ contributed comment on the draft self-assessment.   

Evaluation overdue 

New Zealand is overdue to be evaluated against the OECD’s Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. 

Progress has been delayed by Covid-19 but movement is anticipated during 2021.

Free Trade – No Corruption

New Zealand’s Free Trade Agreement with China has been refreshed.

The upgrade will include a new Chapter on E-Commerce that promotes and facilitates E-Commerce by creating obligations on transparency, online consumer protection, and personal information protection. A new government procurement Chapter adds commitments on transparency and anti-corruption.

In addition, a new Chapter will be added to the agreement to promote environmental protection and require environmental standards not to be used for trade protectionist purposes.

The above article appeared in Transparency Times (February 2021) of the Wellington-based Transparency International.

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