Corruption comes in many forms. The local bureaucrat who requires a bribe to award a contract, a judge who abuses her position to protect a partner or mate or a government watchdog who ignores known corruption while trying to convince the public the corruption covered up does not exist. We now know Sir Justice Hugh Williams bragged to his mistresses about cases he threw in favour of his mates. What we shudder to consider is such conduct may constitute judicial street cred in New Zealand. Williams’ history did not derail his current appointment as President of the Electoral Commission after retirement. Quite possibly, it assisted him, as the Old Boys knew he could be counted on to deliver.
Meet Bryce Edwards, a throwback to the prevailing academic philosophy in civilised countries that education is a passport to free thought, factual enlightenment and expression. Mr Edwards is the accidental political wag and university lecturer whose writings would be considered fluff if they contained accuracies. The real problem is Edwards has decided his best chance of career advancement lies in writing propaganda designed to cover up corruption. The latest example is his trite Herald article which the Herald editor ensured by its heading would reflect on its writer, “Bryce Edwards: Is New Zealand becoming more corrupt?”. An editor’s note also followed the article, “Disclosure: Bryce Edwards is on the Board of Directors of Transparency International New Zealand. However these comments are made in his personal capacity and should not in any way be seen as the view of Transparency International New Zealand.”
Not all that surprising, Bryce Edwards’ article promoted TI-NZ’s official tack of ‘no perceived corruption in NZ’ and ‘facts do not matter’. Indeed, no mention of facts, let alone the Deliotte’s corruption survey disclosing twice as many New Zealand as Australian businesses have admitted to bribes. Even the proliferation of recent corruption scandals in New Zealand were dismissed by Edwards as the sad result of an increasing public thirst for contrived scandals. Mr Edwards warns the new ‘perception’ that corruption is increasing “doesn’t actually mean that New Zealand is becoming more corrupt”. Proving to be as much the contrarian as purveyor of drivel, he insists the old ‘perception’ still holds true in the factual void he has created.
But this is not the worst of it. Two weeks before Edwards’ article ran, the Herald was sent evidence showing Edwards covered up ‘real’ corruption within TI-NZ. The evidence was in the form of emails and Board Minutes from February this year showing Mr Edwards was party to a cover-up of an investigation into alleged fraud by TI-NZ Chairperson Suzanne Snively. Ms Snively selected the ethics committee members to investigate her, EC members were instructed not to communicate with the complainants in their ‘investigation’, then EC Chairman Murray Sheard emailed Edwards and others on the best way to keep their process and their decision secret.
Punctuating proof that real corruption in New Zealand is stranger than fiction, Mr Sheard’s contemporaneous CV falsely stated he was a lecturer in ethics at Auckland University. When called out, he made a joke out of it, complete with smiley faces on his email confirmation this credential was false.
Similar to a police officer who is complicit in drug smuggling and then announces to the public drug smuggling is not a problem, Mr Edwards has committed perhaps the most egregious corrupt act. As a professed authority, he has deliberately violated the public trust. He is keenly aware TI-NZ ignores actual corruption (revealed in emails) and that its rules forbid exposing cases of corruption. He knows, in the past year alone, Ms Snively was directed by Transparency International to stop promoting a non-existent company to sell her consulting services abroad, exposed for exaggerating statistics on domestic violence in a study she was commissioned to provide the Glenn Inquiry and became partners with a known con artist in a New Zealand shell company (Vault Compliance Systems Limited) with its offices in Hong Kong and its 100% shareholder a Cayman Island shell company. Picking the ethics committee members to dismiss complaints of her ethics breaches was mere child’s play for her. Picking a director who lied on his CV to chair the committee was not unexpected. Bryce Edwards had a seat at the table for all of it.
Mr Edwards was correct on his Herald admission “it is impossible to actually measure real corruption”, but this in no way excuses his knowing misrepresentation of its reach in New Zealand. If there is one common thread with victims of corruption in New Zealand it is that so few saw it coming. False indoctrination of the type Mr Edwards preaches ruins many lives unnecessarily if not maliciously.
In what is destined to become comedic fodder, Bryce Edwards is currently promoting a ‘future work’ – a book entitled ‘Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power’. Academics have already surmised it will be short on facts, large on hyperbole and mysticism and, without question, replete with smoke and mirror conclusions. Yet, it is destined to be the “feel good novel of the year” to the tens of people who can stomach its hills of gibberish enough to finish it and believe like Dorothy that if they close their eyes and click their heels they will wake up in Kansas.