Ethics and Human Capital

The tax collector, Pieter Brueghel “The Younger”, (ca. 1620-1640), USC Fisher Museum of art, collection Armand Hammer.

This painting that illustrates these lines is dated between 1620 and 1640 but, unfortunately, in the eyes of many of our fellow citizens, it does not seem that old. Even today the image shows us a fateful but crude reality: tax administrations continue to be perceived as confusing, intimidating and distant institutions to the taxpayer, who feels threatened by them.

Many commendable efforts have been and are being carried out by the administrations to better approach the taxpayers – modern information management systems, sophisticated mechanisms of cross-data with other public and private agencies, procedures and organization for effective accountability, advertising campaigns and information in the media, initiatives to encourage the participation of taxpayers-, but in this article we intend to address the promotion of ethics as a mechanism that help taxpayers to perceive their administrations as effective, efficient, transparent and honest.

In this view, it is necessary to focus on the fundamental element of the equation of ethics: human capital. The civil servant is the main agent on whom efforts to promote ethics and integrity within the administrations should focus. We don’t want to downplay other factors[1] such as the legislative framework, the control mechanisms and accountability, the computer systems or codes of conduct, but the human resource is the main element around which the entire frame of a solid ethical structure revolves.

The overview is as follows: on the one hand there is the general consensus in all administrations on the need to rely on an honest and responsible staff who take into account their duty to the community and, on the other hand, the actions of tax authorities and their servants are more than ever subject to public scrutiny and observed by the media.

In this environment it is clear that the primary objective is to rely on honest individuals, and for this it is necessary to take into account considerations of Public Ethics that establish criteria of conduct in the exercise of their functions and in the performance of their duties, based on the principles of spirit of service, for the sake of the general interest and the common good. This is here where the human resources policies and the ethics come into consideration and acquire capital importance: the process of defining the profiles, selecting and recruiting the candidates, and the induction and training programs are key elements to achieve this goal.

Once the phase of identification of values is completed, we start their internalization by the officers and their projection in the whole organization. For this purpose it is necessary to remember (in case anyone had forgotten it), teach (if someone didn’t know it) and remind (if someone does not understand well) the general principles that prevail in the public office, taking into account that when officers possess strong ethics, they are more responsible in their behavior, in general, and for each of their actions, in particular, without having to resort to legal or administrative control mechanisms.

A human resources policy that takes into account the ethics in its processes is profitable in the short term because ethics is always profitable.

“Ethical values, interiorized by public servants and cultivated properly, can make the art of governing more efficient, transparent, and equitable and just as well as the exercise of public office”

Oscar Diego Bautista, Ética para corruptos (2012).

[1] For more information, see Toolkit for the promotion of Ethics, CIAT, 2007, ISBN 978-9962-647-20-1.

2,926 total views, 2 views today

Disclaimer. Readers are informed that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author's employer, organization, committee or other group the author might be associated with, nor to the Executive Secretariat of CIAT. The author is also responsible for the precision and accuracy of data and sources.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CIAT Subscriptions

Browse through the site without restrictions. Consult and download the contents.

Subscribe to our electronic newsletters:

  • Blog
  • Academic offer (Only in spanish)
  • Newsletter
  • Publications
  • News alert

Activate subscription

CIAT Members

Representatives, Correspondent and Authorized staff (TA)