Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Looking the other way on bribery

The government is currently in the process of passing the Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Legislation Bill, which will supposedly strengthen our laws against bribery. The problem? It still endorses the petty bribery of foreign officials:

Transparency International New Zealand is asking MP's to legislate to make bribes no matter how small - illegal whether paid in NZ or overseas.

The Law and Order Select Committee's report on the Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Legislation Bill continues to allow facilitation payments related to overseas transactions. Facilitation payments are small bribes and these are illegal in many jurisdictions, including in the UK under the UK Bribery Act.

Both Transparency International NZ and the Victoria University's Institute for Governance and Policy Studies made submissions to the Law and Order Select Committee on the grounds that allowing even small cases of bribery undermines New Zealand's strong reputation for being corruption free.

Transparency International New Zealand Chair Suzanne Snively, says the decision by the majority of the Select Committee not to deal with facilitation payments was a bitter blow, especially as the new legislation has been moving in such a positive direction.

"There is no dressing this up. Facilitation payments are bribes and by failing to address them, we are enshrining bribery in New Zealand Law", Suzanne Snively says.

The problem is in section 105C of the Crimes Act, which explicitly permits "small-scale" bribery to expedite "routine government actions". Such as, oh, bribing someone to give you a passport. Or citizenship. Or vote a particular way on legislation. Or not arrest you for murder. Providing its part of the official's job, and they're cheap, then its legal. The law is an explicit recognition and endorsement of corruption, and its one we should not have on our books.