New Zealand has retained its top spot as the country perceived to have the least corruption out of 178 countries surveyed, but an anti-corruption expert has warned of the risk of dealing with some lower-ranked trading partners.
New Zealand shares the top spot this year with Denmark and Singapore in Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perception Index but Alex Tan, Transparency International's New Zealand director, warned of complacency.
There was an apparent lack of awareness about issues of corruption among the private sector in New Zealand, he said.
He said New Zealand organisations tended not to take bribery and corruption practices seriously when doing business overseas despite the fact many of the country's main trading partners ranked poorly on the index.
New Zealand scored 9.3 out of 10, slightly down from 9.4 last year. Australia was eighth equal.
Somalia occupies bottom spot with a composite score of 1.1 while Myanmar (1.4), Afghanistan (1.4) and Iraq (1.5) occupy the other bottom placings.
"When we look at the study results for the NZX 50 and then factor in the 2010 CPI results of some of our major trading partners, China is 78th with a composite score of 3.5," Mr Tan said.
"Our biggest risk is our companies just don't care. Blase – 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."
The Government needed to do more to strengthen the regulatory and legislative environment to combat bribery and corruption, he said.
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."
New Zealand, Denmark and Singapore 1
Finland and Sweden 4
Australia and Switzerland 8
Hong Kong 13
United States 22
- The Dominion Post