Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Low wage raises corruption fear

Mumbai office of Immigration NZ will pay staff around $500 a month, saying that is the going rate in India.

Immigration adviser Tuariki Delamere said corruption and bribery was endemic where staff were paid low wages. Photo / Greg Bowker
Immigration adviser Tuariki Delamere said corruption and bribery was endemic where staff were paid low wages. Photo / Greg Bowker

Immigration New Zealand is advertising for staff to work at its Mumbai branch office - for a little more than $500 a month.

The agency says the salary range is determined using data from job evaluation and market surveys of comparable positions within India.

But an Indian immigration adviser said the wages offered were "way below average" for government agency staff and left the system "open to corruption".

"These Indian immigration officers are working alongside Kiwi colleagues who earn four, five times more than them," said the adviser, who did not want to be named.

"When you pay staff slave wages, you can expect them to be tempted by gifts and bribes."

There have been no allegations of corruption at the Mumbai branch since it opened in 2011.

But in 2010, a visa officer in New Delhi was sacked as a result of internal investigations, and another officer was alleged to have demanded a bribe of $282,000 to process the visas for a group of 47 Indians.

Immigration NZ said it had four New Zealanders seconded to India, either as branch or risk managers, but would not give details of their wages or allowances.

The agency had three New Zealanders employed as "locally engaged staff" in Mumbai, who received the same wages and worked under the same employment conditions as the Indian staff.

Acting general manager Marie Sullivan said the support officer role was an administrative one, where responsibilities include allocating incoming applications, processing mail and answering general inquiries.

"The salary offered is commensurate with living expenses in Mumbai ... the person will be hired as a locally engaged staff under the employment laws of India."

Ms Sullivan said the agency had a dedicated internal investigations unit to investigate any allegations raised, and would take appropriate action if these were substantiated.

"Immigration has very clear standards that we expect our staff to meet. Appropriate action is taken against anyone who fails to meet those standards," she said.

"There are a number of checks and balances in place in our branches to ensure integrity of all decisions made by Immigration and to protect staff from baseless allegations."

Immigration adviser Tuariki Delamere said corruption and bribery was endemic where staff were paid low wages.

"So when one of those officers is approached by someone offering to pay a bribe, often several thousand dollars, it is a no-brainer decision for the officer."

- NZ Herald

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