The SFO has had a strategic year, implementing innovative projects that future-proof the agency to investigate and prosecute tomorrow’s perpetrators of financial crime.
Our Director, Julie Read, introduces both the projects and the people who have contributed to a successful 2017, below.
The evidence on how well we performed is contained in a detailed Statement of Performance. A snapshot of this year’s results compared to previous years provides additional context.
From the Director
‘Bringing together the old and the new’ was the theme of the Serious Fraud Office’s second International Fraud and Corruption Conference, held in Auckland in February 2017. Fraud and corruption are age-old crimes but today’s perpetrators are finding new ways to deceive and corrupt. The challenge for law enforcement, government and the business community is to stay one step ahead of the offenders by embracing new methods and technologies to detect and prosecute those responsible, as well as opportunities to prevent offending and to educate and deter potential offenders. This year’s Annual Report highlights progress in this area.
New Zealand made a welcome return to joint top ranking, scoring 90 along with Denmark, in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index 2016. The index measures perceived levels of public sector corruption. A collaborative investment by public sector organisations, regulators, Justice Sector agencies, the State Services Commission, and professional services’ firms has also seen our public service move towards a proactive approach to preventing corruption. Despite these positive indicators, New Zealand is alive to the threat posed by corruption. The SFO is actively working across the public sector, coordinating an anti-corruption work programme, which is in the planning stages. The work will address education, prevention and deterrence – important elements in building a strong society with integrity as a central characteristic – as well as detection, investigation and prosecution.
The SFO has prosecuted employees from both Auckland Transport and the Ministry of Transport for significant frauds this year. These cases, like most of those we pursue, were complex and embedded in a relational context.
It would be easy to get lost in the myriad of minor issues involved in these matters but often such issues make little, if any, difference to the outcome or to the length of sentence. A strategic approach to case investigation and prosecution, focusing on the high-impact offending, ensures we use our resources to maximum effect.
New Zealand’s commitment to the London-based International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre (IACCC) is being embedded. The SFO is leading our participation in the IACCC with NZ Police. New Zealand has representation at the centre and together with Police Assistant Commissioner Investigations, Richard Chambers, I am on the governance group of the IACCC, which was set up to facilitate cooperation across international jurisdictions on cases of high-level corruption. The SFO has also continued our international emphasis on combatting corruption by participating in the OECD peer review process of the Anti-Bribery Convention and in the Phase 1 review in February 2017 of New Zealand’s compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
In December 2016, we welcomed the new Minister of the SFO, Deputy Prime Minister the Hon Paula Bennett. A key government priority is that agencies work together to achieve the best outcomes for New Zealand. The SFO is discussing with partner agencies the concept of a system-wide financial crime strategy. This proposal considers the creation of a system-wide approach by government agencies with roles to play in education, prevention and enforcement. It responds to a key recommendation in the SFO’s 2014 Performance Improvement Framework – that the weaknesses inherent in agencies holding sub-sets of knowledge needs to be addressed by a systematic, joined-up response.
The SFO is moving ahead with other projects that sit within the nine key interventions in our 2020 Strategic Plan. As part of a wider business systems transformation, we were successful in presenting the business case for funding new case and evidence management systems and will complete implementation in the 2017/2018 year. We have made continuous improvements to organisational design to align with these new systems and finished the year on target with the agency’s budget.
As a small, agile agency we continue to innovate and lead the way in best practice, moving to cloud-based accounting and publishing our first Integrated Statement of Strategic Intent that incorporates the SFO’s Four-year Business Plan and an updated Statement of Intent.
The SFO’s size and the specialist nature of roles offers limited internal ability for employee development, something we acknowledge by supporting employee professional development wherever possible – this year notably with acting management roles. Two of our specialists with future-thinking roles are featured in this year’s report. They are tasked with ensuring we can confidently meet future waves of increasingly digital financial crime.
All our employees make valuable contributions to growing a stronger, more capable agency. I thank them for their achievements in 2016/2017 and look forward to seeing what we can achieve together in the year ahead.
Chief Executive and Director
Highlights of 2017
New Zealand tops the world
for perceived low levels of public sector corruption
custodial sentences handed
down for convictions achieved
more complaints responded to in
the same number of days
The SFO’s biennial Fraud Conference
in February attracted 200+ participants
and encouraged greater awareness of