Written By: - Date published: 8:14 am, January 28th, 2016 - 21 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, corruption, Hekia parata, john key, national, paula bennett, same old national, slippery, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags:
According to Transparency International New Zealand was for a long time the least corrupt nation in the world. We achieved that ranking in 2006 under Helen Clark and the fifth Labour Government and managed to maintain the rating until 2013. But since then it has all been bad news.
New Zealand is slipping down the ranks of the least corrupt countries, with watchdog Transparency International accusing the Government of “astonishing” complacency.
After topping the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for seven years in a row until 2013, the 2015 survey ranked New Zealand behind Denmark, Finland and Sweden. In 2014 New Zealand was ranked second, behind Denmark.
The survey draws scores from a range of other surveys to give an overall rating of the perceptions about corruption for 167 countries. In 2015 New Zealand scored 88, a marked fall from the 91 it scored in 2014.
But Transparency International’s New Zealand chair Suzanne Snively warned that if action was not taken to keep pace in areas such as access to information and environmental protection, further downgrades in the survey were likely.
The area where the Government was marked down hardest was the provision of information. Clearly there has been a declining standard of openness in the way that the Government responds to requests for information from the media and from ordinary citizens. My personal experience from when I asked Paula Bennett for data relating to her complaining that there was a major problem of housing corp tenants being picky showed to me how much of a game it is for the Government to frustrate attempts to hold them to account.
This has started at the top. John Key’s earlier admission that National broke the law by delaying the release of information because it was in National’s political interests to do so should have been met with universal opprobrium and an insistence by the relevant agencies that this was not acceptable. Instead the Ombudsman chose to attack the media for engaging in fishing expeditions. No doubt these have occurred because simple requests by them had been stonewalled.
My experience is not a unique one. Frank Macskasy has posted about his experience with OIA requests to Heka Parata and the charade that occurred.
The whole process is so cynical. Key has a reputation out there in floating voter land of being excessively open, down to admitting that he pees in the shower and the last time that he “fed the chickens”. But the really important information, required so that we the people can actually understand what is going on, is being hidden from us.
A large part of the problem is that the relevant Minister has to be involved in the release of information under the “no surprises” doctrine. I believe we should just let the public service determine these requests. There are precedents. The Courts rule on issues all the time without reference to Ministers. Releasing information should have the same feeling of independence.
Recent news that the Reserve Bank is intending to charge more regularly for OIA requests is only going to make matters worse. It is our information. We pay for it. It should be made available free of charge and the only vetting should be a legal one.