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How Corrupt are Universities?

This 3-dimensional cardboard ‘desk-pyramid’ was sent to all staff at the University of Auckland announcing three of the senior management team’s new policies.  Foremost among these was a new ‘anti-fraud hotline’, which urges academics to become whistleblowers if they see, or suspect, malfeasance in the university. Why, I wondered, had the university instituted this anti-corruption initiative? Why now? What had changed to make combatting corruption a policy priority for the senior leadership team? What does ‘corruption' mean in the context of academia? Above all, why was the Good Call hotline being managed by KPMG in Australia? These questions formed the starting point for my investigation. But as I discovered, this initiative had less to do with increasing corruption in New Zealand’s universities than with KPMG’s attempt to capture new markets for its financial services. This is a small illustration of the way that the Big Four international accountancy firms are expanding into new areas of business, including tax, consultancy and risk management. Yet these firms are increasingly mired in corruption scandals of their own, raising key questions about conflicts of interest and the capture of public institutions by private interests.

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Participant: Cris SHORE
Dept. of Anthropology | University of Auckland
Presentation: "Corruption in the University: Audit Culture and the Work of International Accountancy Firms"