Friday, July 22, 2011

More on Treasury's corruption

Yesterday we learned that the New Zealand Debt Management Office, a branch of Treasury, had been behaving like bankers, accepting lavish gifts and hospitality (dinners at expensive corporate estates, sporting and arts tickets) from the people they were meant to be representing us against. Today, we learn that State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie is fine with that. He shouldn't be. The strong prohibition against accepting gifts in the public service, which extends down to barring public servants from receiving fly-bys, airpoints, and fuel vouchers on official purchases (yes, really), exists to protect us from corruption, and the perception of corruption; it ensures that our public service is seen to be behaving with integrity (something our public servants take seriously and are rightly proud of). NZDMO and Treasury are flagrantly violating those rules, and behaving in a way which causes ordinary kiwis to doubt their integrity. And that is not acceptable. But I guess that its just another case of one rule for Treasury, and another for the proles - as usual.

The good news is that Treasury is now going to engage in proactive disclosure of its gift register. Which will hopefully make those staff who don't want to be accused of corruption at regular intervals more circumspect about accepting gifts. But fear of sunlight isn't enough; Treasury clearly needs to tighten up its internal guidelines, and make it clear that its staff should not be accepting these gifts. It does not matter that the banks have an institutional culture of corruption, bribery, and abuse of their shareholder's money; our public servants are not bankers, and they should not behave like them. Instead, they should behave with integrity. Sadly, it looks like Treasury and DMO don't.