‘Corruption destroys lives and communities’ is its motto and its publicly advertised mission is to promote transparency which lays bare the conflicts and bribes which suck the soul out of all countries to varying degrees. But Berlin-based non-profit Transparency International is better known for telling the world which countries are doing a good job at combating corruption and which ones are not through its annual ‘perception index’ which rates 177 countries from 1 to 177.

Media organisations such as Forbes rely on Transparency International’s findings in promoting its own world perspective.

suzanne snively
Suzanne Snively

In its own ‘perception’, Transparency International ranked New Zealand lowest (along with Finland) in corruption – and its local chapter is the non-profit’s golden child and keeper of the faith. In contrast, New Zealanders question a charter which received almost all of its funding from the New Zealand government, routinely turned away new members – individual memberships have been relatively constant at 50 – and declared its “over-arching principle” is it “will not be involved in investigating or exposing individual cases (of corruption)”.

Finally, a dose of reality has set in, with revelations of rampant corruption within the New Zealand chapter oozing from its opaque façade. Berlin has known since early December that NZ chapter director Suzanne Snively was running a fraudulent company trading on the Transparency International name to sell her consulting services to unsuspecting foreign companies seeking trade with New Zealand. They have done nothing but cover it up. Triple dipping Ms Snively is also a contractor to the New Zealand government and her TINZ salary is funded by the government.

This week it was revealed that another Transparency International New Zealand director Michael Vukcevic falsely claimed in his CV that he had a law degree and other qualifications in order to get an appointment in 2012 to promote New Zealand’s bid for a free trade agreement in the Middle East.

Yet another TINZ director Claire Johnstone was a government official running a private consultancy business which promoted her ability to “access grant funding from government for many of our clients”. Her husband Ash Johnstone, a serving NZ police officer, was profiled on the company website as in charge of conducting security background checks for private clients.

It came to light last year that at least two directors of TINZ made repeated visits to the Ministry of Justice in Cambodia seeking personal fortune on the door-opening coattails of Dame Sylvia Cartwright who was one of two international judges appointed to the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, filling a vacuum in the war ravaged country.

Fraud examiner and former police prosecutor Grace Haden, who was denied membership in TINZ and consequently launched her own “Transparency New Zealand” is not surprised by the corruption or cover up by Transparency International. “They don’t want to know the reality because it differs from the myth they promote.” Late yesterday, Ms Haden sent out an open letter offering Transparency International her services to verify degrees and credentials of its directors.

Transparency International Berlin refused comment other than to suggest inquiries be directed to the New Zealand chapter’s “ethics committee”. Apparently TI corporate are too busy getting ready for a razzle dazzle. The homepage of their website implores “VOTE for us in the Honesty Oscars for Best Visual Effects for the Corruption Perceptions Index infographics that we publish.”

Meanwhile, others within TINZ have expressed concern that if Snively goes, so may the government funding. This funding includes the chapter’s “Cornerstone Platinum Member” The New Zealand Auditor General Lyn Provost who, it was revealed last month, refused to investigate police failings in respect to money laundering at the Sky City Casino at a time she was a shareholder in Sky City. Ms Provost advised her powers of inquiry were ‘discretionary’, stating the investigation would be too costly in this case.

All of this would be big news anywhere else, but not in New Zealand where Ms Snively’s husband is the former chief executive of the government-owned national broadcaster TVNZ.

Sadly for New Zealand, most New Zealanders like the Transparency International myth and prefer news of celebrity sightings not be interrupted by reality.