Saturday, May 18, 2013

Transparency International raking it in to spread propaganda at the taxpayer's expense:

Transparency International New Zealand posted a 'news' story on Voxy yesterday stating its "emergent overall findings" into its "National Integrity Systems review" "found that high standards of independence, integrity and accountability were generally met, although areas for improvements were noted. New Zealand also scores highly for fiscal transparency."  (The fact that they had to resort to Voxy to get this propaganda out speaks volumes in itself.)

 The story states a further report will be provided in July, with the full report concluding August 27th. The public are invited to provide feedback through the local autonomous chapter's website, but the site has been down since the story appeared. The New Zealand government has less of a problem getting TINZ's ear than the public.

The TINZ review's $400,000 budget is being funded by Crown agencies, including the Auditor General. TINZ Review Director Suzanne Snively (pictured) reports biweekly to Solicitor General Michael Heron or Attorney General Chris Finlayson and advises she will be paid $50,000 for her efforts. The story maintains the work is "welcomed by Minister of State Services Jonathan Coleman and Labour spokesperson for State Services Phil Goff". Ms Snively, an American whose most notable achievement could be making a personal fortune off NZ government contracts, currently as Principal of More Media Ltd, advised kiwisfirst (the source of this article, and many others of interest to the public of NZ) last month that she considers New Zealand to be virtually corruption free.

When confronted with survey results which revealed New Zealanders are twice as likely to pay bribes as Australians, she suggested the result was skewed by Australians' ignorance of how corrupt things are across the ditch.

She says she prefers to think positively and claimed much of the dispute with TINZ's findings comes from people focused on the negative - including Kiwisfirst publisher Vince Siemer. Director Snively freely admitted her private company exists on government contracts, but stated this and the Crown's funding of TINZ's review posed no conflict because the review was "objective" and controlled by "22 researchers" independent of the funders. Asked if researchers were paid, Snively responded "some are and some are not". Asked what the methodology was that made the review objective, Ms Snively could only state the review was inclusive of the entire country.

 Transparency International New Zealand has been under a cloud of suspicion for years. Three years ago, Ministry of Transport bureaucrat Claire Johnstone was running the show along with her husband, active police detective Ash Johnstone. On Sinclair Robertson Associates' website - the private consultancy the Johnstones also ran - Mr Johnstone was listed as doing background checks for their private industry clients and the homepage proudly pronounced "We deliver strategic development services for a variety of clients, ranging from iwi groups to central and local government, not-for-profit organizations and small to medium sized enterprise. We have particular expertise in analyzing and presenting an organisation's business case. This has allowed us to raise equity or access grant funding from government for many of our clients."  

According to Snively, the chapter had 52 members at the end of last year and 12 directors. Most members are either public sector bureaucrats or contractors to the NZ government. Membership requests are routinely turned away, although Snively stated she has only turned down two memberships in the last nine months. Media Law Journal blogger Steven Price advised he had to go through an interview to join last year but Ms Snively disputes this, saying it is simply customary for TINZ directors to have coffee with prospective members as a welcome due to most prospects being already known to the members and that Mr Price apparently misconstrued the process.

At least Mr Price was not arrested, as Vince Seimer was when he tried to join.

 Ms Snively does concede the chapter has been run poorly in the past but says she is committed to increasing transparency and membership, declaring it imperative that the chapter increase its funding from memberships and individual donations. She says the non-for-profit's failure to comply with the Incorporated Societies Act and confusion over its Constitution are due to poor administration prior to her becoming involved.

 Last month, within a week of being informed by kiwisfirst that TINZ had failed its statutory obligation to register its rules as an incorporated society, a December 2009 amended version of its rules were filed with the New Zealand Companies Office. The Berlin parent organisation expressed concern about the lapse and said it would investigate.

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