Report paints warning for public service

Last updated 14:01 09/12/2013

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New Zealand's public service is getting more and more susceptible to corruption, a report has found.

The New Zealand National Integrity System Assessment by Transparency International found recent incidents and investigations of corruption, and increasing public concern.

These provided a "compelling case" for a more proactive approach to protecting the integrity of the public service.

The report is only the second study to look at how the public service handles the authority it is given. The first report was in 2003.

"There has been a welcome strengthening of transparency and accountability in some areas in New Zealand," the report said.

"Areas of concern, weakness, and risk highlighted in 2003, however, remain in the face of ongoing and new challenges to integrity in this country.

"In some key areas, passivity and a lack of urgency continue. In others, progress has been very recent and sometimes insufficient."

The report's release comes just after Transparency International released its ranking index measuring levels of corruptions in the public service.

New Zealand held onto its top spot, and for the eighth year in a row had the least corrupt public service in the world, tied with Denmark.

Some public departments have come under fire in recent months.

Police were criticised after the Roast Busters scandal revealed that a group of young men had filmed sex with drunk girls and seemingly no action was taken.

Most recently, Christchurch policeman Gordon Meyer was stripped of his long service medal after pleading guilty to indecent assault, corruption and bribery.

Government spy agencies the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and Special Intelligence Service (SIS) were also forced to make their first appearance in front of a public select committee after months of spying controversies.

Transparency International New Zealand co-director Suzanne Snively said "serious and urgent" action was needed to protect the integrity of the public service.

"Our report finds that the mechanisms that support a high integrity and high trust society, and that facilitate social and economic development, remain generally robust but are coming under increasing stress.

"There has been complacency in the face of increased risks," she said.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said he welcomed the report.

"These results reflect the high levels of integrity, strong spirit of service and the sustained efforts of many state servants working across a range of government agencies," Rennie said.

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"However, there is no room for complacency. The latest Transparency International report is a significant, in-depth piece of work with much to consider and we welcome opinion and robust debate around our public systems."

Collaborative work was being undertaken across the State services in relation to transparency, integrity, bribery and corruption.

"It is a priority for the State services to continue the focus of maintaining high integrity in all our actions and relationships."

- Stuff

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