Nowhere is the tension between doing what is right and gaining the competitive

Nowhere is the tension between doing what is right

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into practice (see Petrick and Quinn, 2000). Nowhere is the tension between doing what is right and gaining the competitive edge more apparent than in the private sector where profits are the bottom line for success. A diminished capacity for integrity, however, is not unique to the private sector. Public sector organisations are not immune from the problem, although its expression takes a different form (Gregory, 1999; Denhardt and Denhardt, 2000). A system operating within the public sector can be said to have integrity if it has unity and soundness of purpose, and if it has processes in place to reflect on and evolve that purpose in response to community needs. Unity infers neither singleness of purpose nor institutional simplicity. Instead, it conveys connectedness in that an organisation’s many goals are pursued and its many processes are implemented with awareness of and responsiveness to each other. In sum, unity implies at least loose coordination among parts such that, through reasoning and reflectiveness, an operational story can be told as to how the parts combine to form a valuable and purposeful whole. An absence of integrity on the unity criterion may occur when goals are pursued at lower levels of an organisation that are antithetical to the organisation’s overarching goals. An example would be the introduction of a collection system for a specific kind of tax that jeopardised protection of the revenue overall. We might call this integrity strain of a vertical kind in that actions taken at lower levels
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Tax System Integrity and Compliance 271 of the organisation are contrary to those expected at higher levels if the organisation’s overarching goals are to be met. At other times, different functional groups at the same level in an organisation may fail to share information and may act in ways that undermine the capacity of the other to meet its objectives. Oversights of this kind describe a shortfall in integrity of a horizontal kind. While unity conveys some overall coordination of effort, soundness conveys the moral appropriateness of the direction of effort. Within a democracy, the ultimate judge of the soundness of purpose of an institution should be the people. Integrity, in the sense of standing by goals and processes supported by the people, involves not only commitment to the system in its current form, but also commitment to revision of the system so that it can continue to serve those it represents. Service entails responsiveness to government in relation to policy, as well as listening to the community and ‘helping citizens articulate and meet their shared interests’ (Denhardt and Denhardt, 2000, p. 549). Unity, soundness of purpose and responsiveness do not in and of themselves satisfactorily denote institutional integrity. Calhoun (1995) has observed that, at the level of the individual, integrity involves more than developing coherent well- reasoned positions on issues and standing by these commitments. Integrity, so conceived, can be deemed self-indulgent. The extra element that needs to be considered to sharpen this analysis of integrity is a social dimension. Integrity
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  • Fall '16
  • tax authority, Australian Taxation Office, Tax Office, Compliance Model

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