Annual report 2022/23

Supporting strong integrity practices

Supporting strong integrity practicesIntegrity can be defined as demonstrating honesty and uncompromising adherence to strong ethical principles. Importantly, it is not just about complying with the law – that is a given. It is about doing the right thing. It is about aligning both commitment and behaviour with strong ethical values or principles in a consistent and uncompromising way.

Public organisations need the public’s trust and confidence to operate effectively, have the impact they are seeking, and achieve their intended outcomes. Public organisations build and maintain the public’s trust by demonstrating competence, reliability, and most importantly honesty.

Engagement with our integrity framework

In 2021/22, we published our integrity framework to support leaders and governors in the public sector to take a whole-of-organisation approach to creating a culture of integrity. In 2022/23, we promoted and supported the integrity framework and guidance with a wide range of public organisations.

We met with boards, audit and risk committees, and senior leadership teams to discuss integrity. Many of these organisations have subsequently carried out a gap analysis against the integrity framework, resulting in plans to strengthen integrity practices.

We have been using the framework to improve our own integrity practice. For the last 12 months, we have been taking important steps to develop a stronger “listen up, speak up” culture in the Office. We also published an integrity guide that provides staff with a single point of reference on integrity matters.

The Serious Fraud Office is using the integrity framework as part of its fraud prevention work. The integrity framework has also attracted international interest. We responded to invitations to present on the framework in the Pacific, Australia, Wales, and Brazil.

In 2022/23, we started work to integrate te ao Māori concepts into our integrity framework.

Risks to integrity in the public sector

We sometimes see that pressure to deliver is affecting public organisations in both central and local government, creating additional risks to ensuring that integrity is maintained and appropriate processes are followed when spending public money.

We continue to be concerned about incidents of poorly managed conflicts of interest in the public sector. Although conflicts of interest arise in all walks of life, there are high expectations about how public organisations manage them given their exercise of public powers and spending of public money.

In 2022/23, we considered several instances of potential conflicts of interest. They included a decision to allocate “shovel-ready” funding to a project in Nelson. One of the funding applicants had previously made a political donation to one of the Ministers responsible for making decisions about shovel-ready funding. We did not consider that a conflict of interest resulted, but the potential conflict of interest should have been identified and managed when the funding decision was made.

We also looked at Horowhenua District Council’s procurement of consulting services for the Levin landfill. There was a concern that a potential conflict of interest was not appropriately managed. We did not find any evidence of a conflict of interest, but the Council’s procurement did not follow its policy or good practice.

Case study: How well public organisations are supporting Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches
Whānau Ora was established in 2010. The Government wants to make more whānau-centred services available, including by increasing public organisations’ investment in Whānau Ora. This performance audit looked at how well Te Puni Kōkiri and other public organisations are supporting Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches.

We found limited progress had been made. We did not see a significant shift towards implementing these approaches, or structured consideration of where and when they would be appropriate.

To address this, the public service needs to be more deliberate in its support of whānau-centred approaches and Whānau Ora. Some public sector processes and practices will need to change to make it easier to implement these types of approaches. Te Puni Kōkiri also needs a clearer and stronger mandate for broadening whānau-centred approaches.

Our recommendations are intended to support the public service to broaden its understanding and development of whānau-centred approaches.

Auditing integrity practices

In 2022/23, we looked into how government agencies support integrity practices and transparency when procuring goods and services during an emergency. We also developed a performance audit methodology that we can use to assess the integrity culture in public organisations.

We published a report on how well the New Zealand Defence Force had designed and reset Operation Respect, a programme aimed at eliminating inappropriate and harmful behaviours and sexual violence in its organisation. We also published a monitoring report that brings together the qualitative and quantitative data we collected to assess the impact of the actions the New Zealand Defence Force was taking. This data will establish a baseline for measuring progress in implementing Operation Respect.

Our next performance audit on Operation Respect will likely start in late 2023/24. It will look at progress that the New Zealand Defence Force has made on the recommendations in our first report.

Case study: Monitoring the New Zealand Defence Force’s progress in implementing Operation Respect
Introduced in 2016, Operation Respect aims to prevent inappropriate and harmful behaviour in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). A review commissioned by the Ministry of Defence in 2020 recommended the Auditor-General independently monitor Operation Respect’s progress over the next 20 years, and NZDF invited the Auditor-General to do so.

As part of this work, we published two substantial reports3 on NZDF’s progress in implementing Operation Respect. In our view, NZDF needs to act with urgency to create a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment for all its personnel. Our work recognised the critical role that senior leaders have in creating and maintaining a safe and respectful culture. It also underlined the importance of having trusted complaints and disciplinary systems.

We made 11 recommendations designed to ensure that NZDF is putting in place the foundations needed for Operation Respect to succeed. NZDF accepted all our recommendations.

We will continue to independently monitor, assess, and report on the impact of the actions NZDF is taking and, over time, whether it is achieving Operation Respect’s outcomes.

3: See New Zealand Defence Force: Resetting efforts to reduce harmful behaviour and A safe and respectful New Zealand Defence Force: First monitoring report, at