Serious Fraud Office needs to raise public awareness, Parliament finds

by Sol Dolor20 Mar 2017
The public are less and less aware of the work the Serious Fraud Office does, the annual review of the Parliament’s Law and Order Committee has found.

According to the committee, the SFO’s own Public Trust and Confidence survey found that public awareness of SFO work was 60% in 2016, significantly down from 79% in 2012.

“We asked whether this created a risk of people not reporting financial crimes to the SFO,” the committee wrote. “We were told that the SFO needed to strike an appropriate balance between lifting its media and public profile, and respecting the sensitivity of ongoing investigations.”

The committee also said that just 16 of the 596 complaints made to the SFO in the financial year, or just 2.7%, had resulted in investigations. It asked the SFO whether this indicated that people did not sufficiently understand the agency’s mandate, and the SFO said that it is “true in part.”

“Where matters were not within the SFO’s mandate, it advised complainants. Where relevant, it referred them to other agencies,” the committee said.

There were also few referrals from the police for 2015-16. Of the nearly 600 complaints the SFO received, only seven were made by the police. Four did not proceed to investigation, three were closed following initial inquiries, and one was referred back to the police.

The committee said that the SFO’s revenue for 2015-16 was NZ$9.536m, up 4% year-on-year. Expenses totalled NZ$8.853m, down 1% YoY.

The agency – which detects, investigates, and prosecutes the most serious and complex financial crimes in the country – ended the year with 46 full-time and five part-time employees. The agency is led by chief executive and director Julie Read and five general managers.

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