Bribery Bill Gets Support Despite Some Concerns

by Desk Editor on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 — 10:05 PM

Tougher rules over bribery and corruption have general support in Parliament, but concerns have been raised about small scale “facilitation payments” not being criminalised.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said the Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Legislation Bill brought in tougher penalties and new offences to combat crime and corruption.

Speaking in the bill’s second reading debate, Ms Adams said the bill would ensure bribes made overseas would be an offence in New Zealand and further changes would be made to comply with overseas conventions. The penalties for taking and offering bribes would also be increased.

“Facilitation payments” would still be allowed in the law, but the definition would be tightened, she said.

There would also be more reporting requirements on overseas financial transfers, wider coverage of people trafficking offences, as well as new law covering identity theft offences.

Jacinda Ardern said the bill covered an area crucial to all parties in the House to maintain standards and New Zealand’s reputation in the international community.

Ms Ardern raised concerns about whether the exemptions for facilitation payments might fall short of international conventions on bribery.

The Ministry of Justice departmental report refers to these payments as being for things such as “small payments relating to the grant of a permit or licence, the provision of utility services, or loading or unloading cargo.” The argued these payments do not yield an “undue advantage”, and should not be criminalised.

Phil Goff said while Labour supported the bill it was not convinced about the facilitation payments as there was a fine line between that and a bribe.

A facilitation payment to any official in New Zealand would be illegal. Other countries had criminalised them even if they were not all prosecuted, Mr Goff said.

Greens MP David Clendon said the Greens had spoken out against facilitation payments in a minority report said they also supported them being criminalised. He said there was a clear case that even a small payment was a bribe.

Some National MPs argued banning facilitation payments could go as far as tips.

Debate on the second reading was interrupted when the House rose at 10pm.

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