Immigration NZ moves to reduce chance of corruption

Source: NZ Herald   Reporter Lincoln Tan

25 October 2010

In a bid to reduce risk of internal corruption, Immigration New Zealand will stop accepting cash as a method of payment from late next month.

More than 30 staff at the agency have been investigated for misconduct, including fraud and corruption this year and at least seven officials have been sacked.

The service said all branches in this country and most overseas would no longer accept cash from November 29.

“Many of our offshore branches are already cashless and this approach is being extended because it reduces the security risks for staff and saves time in cash handling and payment processing,” said head of immigration Nigel Bickle.

Only branches in Beijing, Shanghai, Dubai, Jakarta and Moscow would continue to accept cash because they did not have alternatives, he said.

“To ensure customers have choices in how they pay fees, only branches with two or more payment alternatives will be eliminating cash as a method of payment.”

Immigration New Zealand says the shift is enabled by regulations under the Immigration Act 2009.

Agnes Granada, of Migrant Action Trust, says paying by cash is the method of choice for most migrants and turning cashless shows the agency is not in tune with its customers.

“We cannot assume that all migrants are rich and carry credit cards. There are those who are only familiar with dealing in cash, especially those living in some Asian countries, and this will just make it more difficult for them to make their payments,” said Ms Granada.

“I cannot believe that the New Zealand dollar, which should be legal tender in New Zealand, will not be legal tender at Immigration New Zealand.”

An immigration adviser, whose clients are mainly from India, did not believe going cashless would eradicate corruption in places such as New Delhi.

“There is a culture of corruption everywhere in India, and corrupt officials will continue to demand getting paid through other means,” said the adviser, who did not want to be named.

But Ming Tiang, a licensed immigration adviser who runs Chiwi Immigration Services, said the change would make it easier for agents.

“Currently, some of our clients are giving us bundles of cash to take to Immigration,” he said.

“It takes time to count the money, and paying by cashless methods such as credit card will mean a little less work for us.”

Meanwhile, the Government has said it will refund money to Samoan nationals who were overcharged for residency applications because of an administration glitch.

Immigration had identified 741 Samoan applicants who did not get a $90 fee discount they were entitled to because of an administrative error, which had been corrected. So far 157 have responded and 145 have been refunded.