A local ethics violation by the chair of Transparency International’s New Zealand chapter has developed into a scandal within the global conglomerate.Stan Cutzach Governance Transparency International

Recently disclosed NZ High Court documents reveal Transparency International – Secretariat Governance Director Stan Cutzach (pictured) actively sought to thwart a local ethics complaint against TI-NZ Board Chair Suzanne Snively, initially by preventing it being considered by the international office in 2013.  After chapter Board Minutes recorded Ms Snively picked the investigators who then concluded the complaint unfounded, a judicial review went before the New Zealand High Court.

Mr Cutzach swore an Affidavit  in October 2014 in an attempt to challenge the Courts’ jurisdiction, stating the International office of TI in Berlin would have determined the complaint merits but was not formally asked to do so.   It then came to light that in the intervening months Mr Cutzach engaged in ex parte communications with the NZ chapter on how to evade dealing with the complaint altogether.

Last week, in response to a formal request by a complainant that TI determine the merits of the complaint as represented in Mr Cutzach’s affidavit, Cutzach backtracked from his evidence, now claiming “Our policies are not explicit about such situation (sic) and it is beyond my mandate to rule on your question below.”  Cutzach now states the complaint may not be able to be pursued because “significant time has elapsed”.  The Complainants were advised to attempt to re-join the NZ chapter.  If they are successful Cutzach advised TI Board Ethics Committee would only then decide whether or not it would entertain the complaint.

It was December 2013 that Ms Snively was instructed by TI in Berlin to stop promoting a fictitious company with a similar name to TI on her LinkedIn consultancy profile.  In a 2014 Steve Hart Radio Show interview Ms Snively responded her false claim was inadvertent, born out of her confusion with yet another company controlled by whistle-blower Grace Haden.  She still remains Chair of the NZ chapter.

On TI’s global website Mr Cutzach is listed as a 10 year staffer in charge of “facilitating internal policy development and ensuring compliance”, focused on national chapters in Africa and Asia-Pacific.

According to TI-NZ Board Minutes, Cutzach engaged in “advice” from the New Zealand government that the ethics complaint be “ignored” prior to swearing his court affidavit.   Mr Cutzach never disclosed this interference into the ethics complaint process to the member complainants.

Last month TI HQ refused a formal request to disclose this ex parte communication to the complainants, stating the information requested pertains “exclusively to activities of third parties”, which means “the information requested does not fall within the scope of the TI-S Public Disclosure Policy”.  The refusal admitted “the email exchange” exists but stated it “remains the property of those third parties” despite the email was apparently sent from NZ chapter chairperson and object of the complaint Suzanne Snively to Mr Cutzach.

Transparency International’s Public Disclosure Policy immediately raised doubts concerning the refusal, beginning with the Policy’s stated objective: “Access to information is fundamental to enabling informed decisions and to holding decisionmakers or institutions to account for their actions. Where information is not freely accessible, corruption and the denial of basic rights can thrive. Access to information is a precondition to transparent decision-making and to empower people and institutions to prevent and fight corruption.  For any NGO legitimacy heavily rests in the trust of a public in the mandate and good work delivered, demanding expansive transparency. Transparency International (TI) is committed to leaving no room for the abuse.”

The refusal was issued by an intern within Mr Cutzach’s department named Felicia Fall who joined TI in March 2013.  Her refusal was absent reasons or confirmation from the TI-S Legal Advice Unit, in clear breach of Disclosure Policy requirements in cases of refusals.

Ms Fall failed to respond to repeated queries over several weeks concerning these evident irregularities.

Transparency International’s conflict of interest policy officially prohibits government influence.  However, the New Zealand chapter is unusual in that the New Zealand government has provided 85-93% of its operational funding since its inception.  Until 2010 the chapter’s funding was under an NZ Aid grant which compelled the national chapter to focus outside New Zealand – primarily carrying out its work in smaller South Pacific Islands. TI-NZ was required to submit an action plan each year before annual funding would be approved.  The funding policy today is that each government department makes their own decision on how much to contribute.

In its 2013 ‘National Integrity System Assessment’, TI-NZ concluded that its largest government contributor and “joint partner” in the Assessment, the Office of the Auditor General, had the highest ‘perceived’ integrity and transparency in New Zealand.  Link to TI-NZ.

Mr Cutzach was given an opportunity to provide clarification or comment prior to publication but did not reply.

transparency.net.nz/ is an alternative chapter promoting transparency in New Zealand.