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Transparency International calls for civics education

Transparency International (TINZ) says “Actively promote the importance of ethics, transparency, accountability, and financial literacy among the public in New Zealand through civics education, including in the secondary and tertiary curricula”.

The TINZ report also recommends initiating a national conversation on the constitutional place of local government.

The Transparency (TINZ) recommendations in its Integrity Plus 2013 New Zealand National Integrity System Assessment report was released on International Anti-Corruption Day, 9 December 2013.

The civics recommendation was amongst those it made on the integrity of the permanent public sector and its role in promoting integrity in priority areas.

Suzanne Snively, TINZ Chair says the core message of the report is that it is beyond time to take the protection and promotion of integrity in New Zealand more seriously.

Transparency International says “Citizens have a right to information” – a principle well established in such codes as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and New Zealand’s Official Information Act 1982. Transparency is also a precondition for effective public debate, strengthens accountability, and promotes fairer and more effective and efficient governance.

A National Integrity System

The framework and methodology on which the Integrity Plus 2013 New Zealand report is based has been developed by Transparency International (TI) and applied by TI national chapters in over 100 studies. The New Zealand report covers the three branches of government (legislature, executive, and judiciary), key watch-dog agencies, law enforcement, political parties, the media, business, and NGOs.

At the heart of this assessment are reports on 12 ‘pillars’ – branches of government, sectors, or agencies that constitute New Zealand’s NIS.

NIS

TINZ’s National Integrity System’s (NIS) use of the standard “temple diagram” as its assessment framework incorporates the Treaty of Waitangi (generally considered New Zealand’s founding document), environmental governance, and local government. Each of the individual pillars of the NIS has been assessed and scored against a set of indicators that measure each pillar’s capacity, governance, and role within the system.

 

Financial literacy in civics education

A significant deficiency exists in the level of financial literacy skills of consumers of financial products, which reflects the lack of education available for New Zealanders both in this area and in the wider frame of civics and ethics says TINZ. If these areas of knowledge are not improved across the population, the benefits of enhanced transparency in the financial and business sectors will be limited. Serious attention must be given to improving financial literacy among a higher proportion of New Zealanders, to ensure a higher skills base among those whose dealings require knowledge to assess financial performance and use financial products. Improved financial literacy would complement enhanced transparency requirements TINZ says in its business recommendations for civics.

Migrants need knowledge

Interviews strengthened TINZ’s conclusion “Civics and business education in the New Zealand school system is weak, leading to poor general knowledge of the legitimate expectations of ethical business practice.”

A cohort of migrant-owned businesses that operate in relative isolation from the mainstream (for language or other reasons), may not be aware of New Zealand business practices and norms. Government needs to get information about ethical expectations to this group. Also, a collaborative effort is needed for government to better connect with small businesses. Research is lacking on the practices of small and medium-sized enterprises, which makes it difficult to assess how to connect with these businesses and identify the drivers relevant for them.

Serious and urgent action needed

TINZ says its “landmark report reveals that serious and urgent action is needed to protect and extend integrity in New Zealand. Recent incidents and investigations of corruption, and increasing public concern, provide a compelling case for a more pro-active approach to these issues.”

According to TINZ Co-Director Suzanne Snively “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”.

An integrity system assessment takes stock of the integrity with which entrusted authority is exercised.

“This project is a substantial commitment on the part of TINZ and its partners to create a definitive roadmap for a corruption intolerant New Zealand” Suzanne Snively says.

Find out more

The complete Integrity Plus 2013 New Zealand National Integrity System Assessment and all associated papers are publicly available online on website transparency.org.nz. The NIS is directly accessible on the Integrity Plus 2013 New Zealand NIS landing page with the full report, its executive summary, the report by sections, supplementary papers, and additional papers, including http://www.transparency.org.nz/docs/2013/Additional-Paper-Local%20Government%20-Integrity-Plus-NZ-2013-NIS.pdf?PHPSESSID=aa02840f5d4a608a2ed0a2236051c930

This report, from a Pacific Islands Citizenship Education Capacity Building Programme 2013-2016 (PICE) series in www.citizenshipeducation.net from Anthony Haas, Asia Pacific Economic News representative in the NZ Parliament’s Press Gallery and Director, Centre for Citizenship Education), is supported by the Commonwealth Foundation and others.

Updated 7 January 2014

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