New Zealand laws & measures

New Zealand has several corruption-related laws and measures. We're also party to a variety of international agreements.

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Organised Crime & Anti-corruption Legislation Bill

The Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Legislation Bill made a number of amendments to New Zealand’s anti-corruption frameworks.

 Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Legislation Bill (external link)

Passed by Parliament in November 2015, the Bill amends 15 Acts and introduces a range of measures to tackle illicit activities such as money laundering, bribery and drug-related crime,

Its passage also cleared the way for New Zealand to formally ratify the United Nations Convention Against Corruption [anchor link to section lower down].

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Offences & enforcement measures

New Zealand has several laws and measures to deter corruption, ensure offenders do not profit from criminal activity and hold offenders to account.

New Zealand’s criminal offences relating to bribery are contained in the:

  • Crimes Act 1961
  • Secret Commissions Act 1910.

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Crimes Act 1961

The Crimes Act 1961 part 6 contains criminal offences related to, amongst other things, the corrupt use of official information and the corruption and bribery of:

  • the Judiciary
  • ministers of the Crown
  • members of Parliament
  • law enforcement officers
  • public officials.

Crimes Act 1961 part 6 (external link)

Penalties include terms of imprisonment of up to 14 years for the most serious cases.

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Secret Commissions Act 1910

The Secret Commissions Act 1910 (external link) contains bribery and corruption-style offences relevant to the private sector.

Secret Commissions Act 1910 (external link)  

Penalties range from $2000 to 2 years’ imprisonment.

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Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009

If the Police suspect that an individual has benefitted from a bribe or corrupt activity, the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 allows the Crown to recover the money or property derived from this crime.

Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (external link)

The Act allows the Police to apply to the court to freeze or recover money or property derived from crime. This may include the immediate profits of crime (such as the money obtained from accepting a bribe) or the indirect benefits (such as a car purchased using money obtained through fraud). The purpose of the regime is to take the profit out of crime, remove the tools of crime, and potentially compensate victims using recovered criminal proceeds.

Under the Act, the proceeds of crime may be recovered by the Crown regardless of whether the individual has been convicted for criminal offending. Assets can be forfeited if the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the assets were acquired as a result of criminal activity.

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Office of the Controller and Auditor-General

The Office of Controller and Auditor-General is central to ensuring the accountability of the public sector. Part of its role is to look closely at the way the public sector uses its money and to report any corrupt use to Parliament.

 Office of Controller and Auditor-General (external link)

The office has 2 units:

  • Office of the Auditor-General
  • Audit New Zealand.

The Auditor-General independently reports on whether public organisations are behaving financially appropriately and are giving full and accurate accounts of their activities.

The Public Audit Act also gives the Auditor-General significant powers to access information.

These powers ensure there is a high degree of transparency surrounding the use of public money. These transparent arrangements are one of the reasons New Zealand is consistently seen as having low levels of corruption.

Audit New Zealand carries out auditing of all types of public sector organisations. An independent body, it enables domestic and international confidence in the thorough and unbiased investigations of New Zealand's public sector finances.

Audit New Zealand website (external link)

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Office of the Ombudsman

The role of the Office of the Ombudsman includes investigating complaints raised against New Zealand central, regional and local government.

The Ombudsman can look into complaints about corrupt behaviour. It can also initiate investigations on its own accord (for example, when no complaint has been laid).

The Ombudsman's powers of investigation apply even in situations where a matter has already been investigated by another agency and a final decision made that can't be appealed.

Office of the Ombudsman website (external link)  

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Official Information Act 1982

The Official Information Act requires ministers of the Crown, central and local government departments, and organisations that are subject to the legislation, to release when asked official information that is not exempt from the provisions of the Act.

Official Information Act (external link)

Under the legislation, the Ombudsman can investigate and review any decision about a request for official information.

If the request is unreasonably refused, the Ombudsman can order the information be released.

This helps ensure that information relating to corrupt behaviour can be revealed.

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State Services Commission code of conduct

The State Services Commission code of conduct sets out the behaviour expected of state sector workers. The code requires workers to be fair, impartial, responsible and trustworthy. The ‘trustworthy’ section of the code obliges workers to:

  • be honest
  • never misuse their position for personal gain
  • decline gifts or benefits that place them under any obligation or perceived influence
  • avoid any activities, work or non-work, that may harm the reputation of their organisation or of state services.

State Services Commission code of conduct (external link)

The code provides the basis for ongoing trust in the State Services. It also protects staff by setting out clear expectations, so that everyone knows their obligations and what is required of them.

For more information, see the State Services code of conduct and the State Services resources for organisations implementing the code of conduct (external link)

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International cooperation

New Zealand works closely with other countries in the global fight against corruption. Members of the international community provide each other with as much assistance as possible in investigating and prosecuting bribery.

Several New Zealand laws enable international cooperation.

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Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992

The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992 allows New Zealand to request other countries’ help in locating people, obtaining evidence, and enforcing orders. It also allows other countries to request New Zealand's help.

Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992 (external link)

New Zealand can consider requests from all countries. A request for assistance may be refused if, amongst other things, it relates to:

  • behaviour that is not an offence in New Zealand
  • an offence that carries the death penalty
  • requests that may prejudice someone’s safety.

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Extradition Act 1999

The Extradition Act 1999 governs the removal from and return of people to New Zealand who have been accused of an offence.

Extradition Act 1999 (external link)

The offence must relate to an 'extraditable offence' that:

  • carries a maximum penalty of not less than one year's imprisonment in the requesting country, and
  • involves behaviour that would have been criminal had it occurred in New Zealand and would have carried a similar penalty.

All New Zealand's bribery offences are extraditable offences.

When an extradition request is made, a court hearing is held to determine if there is a strong case and to make sure the treaty and the law have been complied with.

Extradition can be refused on a number of grounds, including:

  • offences of a political character
  • offences that carry the death penalty
  • double jeopardy.

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