Magazine article Public Sector

Culture of Integrity

Magazine article Public Sector

Culture of Integrity

Article excerpt

Integrity and transparency are important to the New Zealand economy. We are a nation that depends on overseas trade and investment, so our reputation and brand in overseas markets matters greatly.

For some years, New Zealand has been known as the "world's least corrupt nation". The latest survey by Transparency International shows New Zealand and Denmark in first place equal for freedom from corruption. This is the result of good business conducted by New Zealanders over decades and generations, and it is an outstanding competitive advantage.

A trading economy free from corruption is in a good position to build trust with trading partners. A country without widespread corruption can be far more efficient, effective and prosperous than a corrupt one. Freedom from corruption means people and property can be protected from criminal harm. It also means contracts can be enforced, allowing confidence in commercial transactions, an important precondition for business and economic growth.

Freedom from corruption comes not just from a country's police and justice system, although these are essential, but from an ethos among its people. A culture of integrity is what makes the difference.

Having strong integrity systems and a culture of integrity means democracy can work properly. It means the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box can be implemented, and politicians who do not carry it out can be replaced.

A culture of integrity allows for a well- functioning bureaucracy - bureaucrats who cannot be bribed are a major protection against corruption. This will be apparent to anyone travelling in countries where graft and corruption are widespread, bureaucracies do not work effectively, and policing and justice systems cannot be relied on.

Lacking strong integrity systems brings lack of hope. Where there is an absence of justice and order, a lack of ability to enforce contracts, and a lack of ability for political change to occur, there can be little hope of improvement.

New Zealand's situation is very different. We can hope for a better future because our systems and our culture give us the power to put right things that are wrong, and to achieve continuous improvement. It would be easy to take this remarkable achievement for granted. We have scored highly in the 'least corrupt' rankings for a long time, but that does not guarantee this will continue. In fact, it is becoming harder to maintain.

We trade with a wider range of countries now. Until a generation ago our main trade relationship was almost exclusively with the United Kingdom, whose justice system and bureaucracy is similar to ours. …

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