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October 2006 Edition ---- to page back through Previous Editions click here

It is time for some ramblings on the general theme of corruption. There have been plenty of goings-on on the subject.

The often quoted authority on the subject is the Corruption Perceptions Index compiled the organisation Transparency International. The index is a bit of an enigma because it is based upon opinion and justice generally requires something more than that. One also gets the impression that the index focuses on the working class masses of countries and not on their professional and political elite. New Zealand fares well on the index, we suspect, partly because tipping has never been extensively practiced here. If it is acceptable for an hotel porter to curtail or minimise services because a hotel guest is not giving him a direct payment it seems but a short step down the way for a low paid civil servant to adopt a similar policy with respect to giving people access to government services.

NZ is currently second equal on this index. The immediate observation is that the index is topped by homogenous fair skinned nations. The Maori content in the NZ population could be seen to be an exception to the rule and is possibly a tribute to that race. Then again it is very heavily jailed. Probably more so than any race could jail itself.

Which brings us to the case of Donna Awate-Huata and her husband Wi Huata who have just been in the news for having their appeals against fraud convictions declined. The question in this case " why were these people holding about a hundred thousand dollars of state supplied money as trustees?, or as a de facto trustee as Ms Awate-Huata's position might be better described.. As a Member of Parliament at the time she was not allowed to be such. a trustee. Oh yes, we have our controls. But this money, for a pilot run of a supplementary children's reading programme which she had devised, could have been paid by the government department directly to the tutors and administrators as the work was done. But our state service does not exercise the independence that it once did. The problem would seem to have its origins in the 1980s the Labour party did the unthinkable and overtook the National Party via the right hand lane, An unofficial "hands on" approach emerged with respect to administration. Various commissions and ad-hoc bodies started taking over state service functions with appointments made directly by the government, showing the State Services Commissioner that he needed to show more flexibility. The MMP parliamentary system probably hasn't helped much in this regard either as it is more difficult to hold a loyal band of MPs together. The payments into the trust were most likely intended to be some sort of perk for the potentially disloyal MP. She was expected not to go over the edge however but no doubt it was very hard to know just where the edge was.

The Minister of Commerce recently came out and said that it would be most improper for her to influence or direct the Securities Commission in any way. But she will have appointed many of the commission members and they would no doubt like re-appointments, which she has in some cases granted, or might like appointments to similar bodies so no doubt has her unofficial ways of letting the members know what her wishes are. Controlling without the need to take responsibility seems to be what it is all about.

It has been the electioneering spending issue that has bought the word "corruption" into play. National seemed to have had the legal advantage and has forced the Auditor General to go into objective mode which is a very good thing and will hopefully set a trend. Both parties seem to have gone about equally over the spending cap, Labour with state funds and National with the direct application of funds from private supporters which at this stage does not seem to count. It means the election probably wasn't really stolen though. The corruption issue will not probably not become an election issue until the fierce gulf between the parties on income distribution is sorted out.

Another appeal turned down recently was that of double murder convict, John Barlow who applied for a pardon. There has been a lot of disquiet about several other murder convictions and the authoritative answer has been that we cannot have trial by media or trial by public opinion. The decision has got to be made by fully informed jurors. That is hard to argue with. Barlow's case does not engender so much public disquiet about his guilt but the jury which convicted him was misinformed about identifying bullets as having came from the same packet or some such assertion given by an expert witness from America's FBI. We say that this renders the conviction invalid and the trial situation reverts to two inconclusive trials with a third one ordered. That should have been the finding of those who ruled on the appeal. We are quite disgusted at the comments of Detective Brett Kane that the disputed evidence was just one little item and should not upset the conviction. He went to considerable trouble to get that one extra item of evidence presented to the third trial, no doubt because he though that it might make the difference and achieve a conviction. We have trial by public opinion in this case because, we suspect, those deciding on the appeal have observed d that public opinion would not be enough to over-rule them. They spent a long time on the appeal, we suspect to gauge such opinion.

The public goes along with "beyond reasonable doubt" because everyone fears being personally falsely convicted. But they also want a high conviction rate for crimes because they think that will reduce the number of them. So when the accused is not them or someone like them they become less concerned with the beyond doubt criteria.

Well there is not much about accounting in the above. It helps set the environment though. Here is something which is near pure accounting. Go to this link, and read the speech of Ron Mark. The newsmedia seem to be leaving the story alone. They don't like upsetting firms with international, particularly American, affiliations. Not good for us, they recon.

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