National Integrity System Assessment (NZ0003)
The third element of our Action Plan is the work we are embarking on with Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ), the civil society organisation that works to identify and address corruption. In 2013, TINZ produced a New Zealand National Integrity System Assessment which culminated in a detailed report that made a series of recommendations across 12 “pillars” of New Zealand‟s integrity system. These pillars are the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, public sector, law enforcement, electoral management, ombudsman, audit institutions, political parties, media, civil society and business.
The work with TINZ over the next two years will involve engaging in ongoing dialogue on TINZ‟s National Integrity System Assessment, and working with TINZ and other stakeholders to examine and respond to the recommendations (for details about the recommendations see Appendix B).
IRM End of Term Status Summary
3. Responding to Transparency International Report
National Integrity System assessment report - Consult and report back to Ministers in February 2015
Editorial note: This language was taken from the chart on page 5 of the national action plan.
The third element of our Action plan is the work we are embarking on with Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ), the civil society organisation that works to identify and address corruption. In 2013, TINZ produced a National Integrity System Assessment (NIS report) which culminated in a detailed report that made a series of recommendations across 12 “pillars” of New Zealand’s integrity system. These pillars are the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, public sector, law enforcement, electoral management, ombudsman, audit institutions, political parties, media, civil society and business.
The work with TINZ over the next two years will involve engaging in ongoing dialogue on TINZ’s National Integrity System Assessment, and working with TINZ and other stakeholders to examine and respond to the recommendations.
Editorial note: This language was taken from page 10 of the national action plan.
Responsible institution: State Services Commission
Supporting institution(s): Transparency International NZ (TINZ)
Start date: 1 July 2014......... End date: 30 June 2016
This commitment aims to assess and respond to the National Integrity Systems report (NIS report) by Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ). The NIS report[Note 31: Transparency International New Zealand, Intergrity Plus 2013, New Zealand National Integrity System Assessment, December 2013, http://www.transparency.org.nz/docs/2013/Integrity-Plus-2013-New-Zealand-National-Integrity-System-Assessment.pdf.] contained a wide range of recommendations about policies affecting transparency, governmental integrity and accountability, electoral finance, whistle-blowing, parliamentary funding, procurement, anti-corruption efforts, and other matters vital to democracy. The government committed to completing an assessment and consultation with TINZ on the details of the report. There are seven overarching recommendations, many of which could greatly improve access to information, civic participation, and public accountability if implemented. They were summarised in the IRM progress report as follows:[Note 32: IRM: New Zealand Progress Report 2014-2015, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/IRMReport_NEWZEALAND_ONLINE%C6%92.pdf, 31-32.]
1. Develop a comprehensive national anti-corruption strategy in partnership with civil society and the business community, combined with rapid ratification of the UN Convention against Corruption.
2. Initiate a cross-government programme of wide public consultation to develop an ambitious New Zealand Action Plan for the international Open Government Partnership.
3. Strengthen the transparency, integrity, and accountability systems of Parliament, the political executive (the Cabinet), and local government.
4. Strengthen the role of the permanent public sector with respect to public procurement, integrity and accountability systems, and public policy processes.
5. Support, reinforce, and improve the roles of the Electoral Commission, the judiciary, and the Ombudsman in maintaining integrity systems.
6. The business community, the media, and nongovernmental organisations should take on a more proactive role in strengthening integrity systems, addressing the risks of corruption.
7. Conduct further assessments and research in priority areas to understand better how to strengthen integrity systems further.
The NIS report also contains a series of sub-recommendations, including the following:
The aim of this commitment was to examine the NIS report and in consultation with TINZ and other relevant stakeholders identify any actions the government may need to take to address the TINZ concerns and recommendations.
Evaluating this commitment presents a challenge as the government has only committed to engage in dialogue and “respond” to the NIS report in a report to ministers. The position in 2014 was that these actions had not occurred. However, the commitment to engage in dialogue and report to ministers did not have clearly defined benchmarks or other measurable elements to assess the effect on OGP values.
The IRM researcher has assessed this commitment by examining the quality of the government’s dialogue with TINZ and other stakeholders, and the production and timeliness of the report to ministers.
The government adhered to its commitment to meet regularly with TINZ to discuss the NIS report. However, it did not meet with any other stakeholders as it proposed in the commitment, nor did it report back to ministers with a response by February 2015 as promised. This was deferred until early 2016. TINZ was very satisfied with the initial consultations but was concerned that they seemed to end rather abruptly with little further communication.
In its midterm self-assessment report,[Note 33: New Zealand Mid-term Self-assessment Report, http://www.ssc.govt.nz/sites/all/files/OGP-NZ-Mid-term-Self-Assessment-Jan2016a.pdf. ] the government determined that many of the TINZ recommendations are already being acted on. TINZ did not accept this assessment, and in the IRM progress report,[Note 34: IRM: New Zealand Progress Report 2014-2015, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/IRMReport_NEWZEALAND_ONLINE%C6%92.pdf, 32.] the researcher found little evidence to support completion, concluding that there remained much room for significant progress in relation to the TINZ recommendations. It is important to note, however, that no such progress was promised in this commitment.
End of term: Substantial
The government held no meetings and had no communication with TINZ about this commitment from 8 June 2015 until it finalised its response in September 2016. The government did not consult any other external stakeholders and clarified that when it promised in the action plan to consult “TINZ and other stakeholders” it meant TINZ and government agencies.[Note 35: State Services Commission, Official Information Act response to IRM researcher, 19 August 2016, 4.] The IRM researcher did not accept this as clear from the language of the commitment and notes that the government states it has no documentation of consultation with other agencies.[Note 36: Ibid.]
Government officials state that, after consulting with TINZ about its NIS proposals, officials reported back to the minister on 21 June 2016 with their recommendations.[Note 37: State Services Commission, Official Information Act response to IRM researcher, 19 August 2016, 4.] This was 16 months after the date promised in the action plan. The IRM researcher requested a copy of that report. The government initially declined to provide it, citing withholding grounds under official information laws that protect the provision of confidential advice and free and frank opinions. The government did not believe that the public interest in the release of the report outweighed the harm that may be caused by releasing it.[Note 38: Ibid.] However, the report was made available to the IRM researcher on 20 September 2016 and has since been posted on the State Services Commission’s OGP webpage.[Note 39: The government’s final self-assessment report states that it has been made publicly available at https://www.ssc.govt.nz/tinz, 3 October 2016. Open Government Partnership New Zealand Final Self-assessment Report First National Action Plan 2014–16, http://www.ssc.govt.nz/sites/all/files/New%20Zealand%20OGP%20final%20self-assessment%20report.pdf, 21.]
The report is undated. It responds to the TINZ recommendations point by point, generally by summarising the actions that the government took, before and after the NIS report, that are relevant to the TINZ recommendations.
The IRM researcher finds that this commitment is substantially complete. Dialogue about the NIS report took place, but only with TINZ and not with other stakeholders, and it stopped before the report to the ministers was finalised. That report was completed and does address the TINZ recommendations, though it does not closely respond to each one. It is undated with no clear evidence about when it was presented to the ministers. But according to the government, it was at least 16 months after the due date in the action plan, and it was not approved for public release for a further three months, well after the OGP commitment period ended.
Did it open government?
Civic participation: Marginal
Public accountability: Did not change
The government committed to discussing the NIS report with TINZ and others and reporting back to the ministers in order to examine and respond to wide-ranging recommendations about various institutions, laws, and policies vital to democracy. By consulting with TINZ, responding to their recommendations, and implementing some changes from the NIS report, there was a marginal change in government practice that embodied civic participation in action.
TINZ identified progress on some of their key NIS recommendations, especially the ratification of United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the passage of the organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Act, joining the Open Government Partnership, and developing an OGP national action plan. It also acknowledges the substantial work done, especially by the State Services Commission, in identifying and responding to the recommendations. However, TINZ remains concerned that the government did not respond to the serious issues outlined in the NIS report in many areas where action is required for implementation. Several recommendations called for wide public consultation, but there is no evidence that consultation has happened. In addition, TINZ found that the government misunderstood or ignored some recommendations. Therefore, because the government had only limited engagement with one CSO in responding to the NIS report, the improvement in civic participation was marginal.
In carrying out this commitment, the government failed to create a feedback loop to engage a wide range of nongovernment stakeholders in the process of reviewing progress on implementing NIS recommendations. The ongoing dialogue could have been used to involve a range of stakeholders in assessing and carrying out the NIS recommendations, perhaps even creating an accountability mechanism. However, this did not occur, and the government did not communicate with TINZ or other stakeholders for the second half of the commitment period.
The IRM researcher concludes that the overall effect on opening government according to OGP values was marginal at best and concurs with TINZ in the belief that the response to the NIS report represents missed opportunities for the government to deliver on what could have been a genuinely transformative commitment.
The government’s second action plan has not yet been released. It is not clear whether any of the NIS recommendations will be included. The IRM progress report set out some NIS recommendations that TINZ believes should be given priority.[Note 40: IRM: New Zealand Progress Report 2014–2015, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/IRMReport_NEWZEALAND_ONLINE%C6%92.pdf, 34.] TINZ’s submission on the second action plan calls for a greater degree of ambition and responsiveness to the wishes of the citizenry. It also asks for progress on many of the NIS recommendations, including safe channels for whistle-blowers, a citizens’ budget, political party transparency, managing conflicts, improved integration of the Treaty of Waitangi, and environmental and social reporting. Its other priorities, many of which reflect the recommendations of the IRM progress report, are:
Improve engagement with citizens—Develop channels of communication, segmented for different citizen attributes, using existing (enhanced) public, civil society, local government, and digital processes where feasible and building new processes where there are currently major groups of marginalised citizens.
Improve public integrity—More effectively manage public resources and reform official information laws by extending them to parliamentary bodies and adopting the Law Commission’s recommendation to create an official information authority responsible for training, culture, advice, best practice guidance, and identifying necessary reforms. Strengthen the integrity of the permanent public sector in regard to procurement, etc. Review current anti-corruption legislation, including a discussion of the Misconduct in Public Office Review and the expansion of the Official Information ActIA to cover a Parliamentary code of conduct or guidance for relationships between ministers and public servants to complement the Cabinet Manual.
Strengthen governance arrangements of the executive and Parliament—Support and reinforce the roles of the Electoral Commission, the judiciary, and the ombudsman. Create a set of robust and government-wide practices in collaboration with civil society concerning timely public consultation on new bills, regulation, and policy; base them on international best practice; make them mandatory where feasible; and include an effective complaint resolution mechanism or ombudsman.
Open voices—Develop a public, cross-government policy formally permitting public servants, civil society, and all those receiving public funding to speak out on significant public issues without facing any form of retaliation. Instead of silencing civil society, find a mechanism to co-create with them.
Increase corporate accountability—Engage and encourage business, communities, NGOs, and the media to take on a more proactive role in building strong integrity systems. Create a cross-sector integrity taskforce to develop and enforce strategy. Develop a specific business anti-corruption/good governance framework to establish best practice in trade and also to ensure New Zealand business is up to speed with international best practice.
The IRM researcher recommends that concrete measurable activities to support these activities could be useful if included in the next action plan. The commitment in the first action plan was not sufficiency ambitious and did not provide for specific outcomes with clear practical effects on accountability and civic participation.
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