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Back in November we talked about how New Zealand had a higher rate of economic crime than its near neighbours, way above the world average: a massive 42% of businesses in New Zealand had suffered economic fraud in the previous 12 months against a global average of 30%.
Now it’s emerging that the country may have problems with bribery within one of its government institutions. Readers will already know of (Ex) MP Phillip Field found guilty of bribery and corruption. The former immigration boss Mary Anne Field who “consistently breached” the requirements of public servants to manage conflicts of interest. They may also remember Former list MP Donna Awatere Huata who was convicted of fraud.
Voxy first hosted a HNZ press release yesterday that carefully avoided the “B” word:
“Housing New Zealand is investigating an allegation a staff member has been offering applicants for state houses preferential treatment, in return for money, Chief Executive Dr Lesley McTurk said today.
“I can reassure everyone this situation is being thoroughly investigated. Immediate employment action has been taken,” Dr McTurk said. “Once our investigation is complete, it will be possible to make a decision whether it is appropriate to bring the matter to the attention of the Police…..”
Today the Herald is running a story saying that it may not be just a single employee that’s involved and, in an article that mentioned the dreaded “B” word five times, said:
“Allegations that a Housing New Zealand (HNZ) staff member has been taking bribes is not the first claim of its kind, says a tenant advocate. Piripi Gray said he welcomed the investigation and had previously heard of other allegations of bribery at HNZ.
He said tenants were vulnerable and felt intimidated by HNZ staff.
“But if they come forward than people can really see what is happening inside Housing New Zealand,” Mr Gray said. He said tenants had complained to him in the past that application forms were not being processed and that HNZ staff were asking for goods such as stereos.”
Stereos?! well at least they won’t show up on the bank statements. The Herald closed with:
“New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services secretary Raewyn Fox said many of her clients were also clients of Housing New Zealand but she had never heard of bribery.
“I have heard mumbles about the waiting lists though,” Ms Fox said. “Even the suggestion that something like this has happened will damage their confidence,” she said.
Housing Minister Phil Heatley praised HNZ for its “swift action”.
“Prospective Housing New Zealand tenants and the wider public must have confidence in the probity of the state house system. I’m confident all necessary steps are being taken to ensure that is the case,” Mr Heatley said.
Mr Heatley said anyone with complaints about HNZ could call the authority’s complaints line in “absolute confidence” on 0800 801 601.”
A typical call may go something like this “Oh yes, a while ago I gave this chick at HNZ my stereo so she wouldn’t ‘lose’ my paperwork again. You’re not going to take my home off me are you?” How many calls do you think HNZ is going to get from tenants who already feel “vulnerable” and “intimidated”?
We have a feeling that this one will run and run but we don’t think that HNZ’s complaint’s line is going to be red hot.
Stand by to see what else comes out of the woodwork over the next few days.
UPDATE 18 April – Sex For State Houses Allegations
Steve Hopkins of the Sunday News has written a piece saying that an Housing NZ investigation is underway following allegations that one of their workers abused his position to have sex with tenants:
“A South Auckland woman complained to HNZ that a staff member, who helped find her a property “just down the road from his”, pressured her and other HNZ tenants into having sex.
HNZ staff are forbidden from having relationships with clients under the Public Sector Code of Conduct.
The 50-year-old mother of five said: “He sees attractive women coming through his work. He befriends them at first but his real intention is to have sex with them. He’s a predator.”…
Read the rest of it HERE