National vows to double Serious Fraud Office's budget in bid to stamp out corruption

Source: 1News

National has vowed to do more to stamp out corruption by providing additional support to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), if they are voted in at the election.

Under a National Government, the SFO’s 2020/21 budget would double, going from $12.7 million to $25 million a year.

“New Zealand’s most successful crime fighting agency will get the resources it needs to deliver on its stated role as the ‘lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious financial crime, including bribery and corruption,” National leader Judith Collins said.

“The SFO will continue to work alongside the likes of the NZ Police’s Financial Intelligence Unit, but it will have the funding it needs to do the job it was established in 1990 to do.

“The SFO has statutory powers that other New Zealand crime fighting agencies do not, including powers to compel the production of information and to require witnesses and suspects to answer any questions put to them without the right to silence. But these powers aren’t being given enough opportunity to be used."

Collins said it doesn’t make sense for the SFO, which is the lead agency with the greatest legal powers to uncover those things, to be playing second fiddle to other agencies working in this area.

“New Zealand’s most successful crime fighting agency will get the resources it needs to deliver on its stated role as the ‘lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious financial crime, including bribery and corruption.”

National would also change the office’s name from the Serious Fraud Office to the Serious Fraud and Anti-corruption Agency, Collins said.

Collins said it was no time for complacency despite New Zealand’s reputation as one of the least corrupt countries in the world.

"The SFO says the threats to our reputation as a relatively corruption free country ‘have probably never been greater today than any other time in our history."

“National agrees, and we’ll resource the office properly to do the job New Zealanders expect it to do.”

“Corruption rankings are based largely on perceptions. In New Zealand’s case this is in-part because of the relatively small number of proven cases of serious fraud, bribery and corruption we uncover. In a way it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you aren’t searching for something you’re unlikely to find it.”