Academic journal article University of Queensland Law Journal

Integrity in Tribunals

Academic journal article University of Queensland Law Journal

Integrity in Tribunals

Article excerpt

Integrity is becoming a standard of increasing importance. It is a standard expected to be met by all in government and can be useful in measuring performance. Tribunals are in no different position. This article will first define integrity and how it is being used generally (Part A). The discussion next examines what integrity means in the context of individual tribunals and the tribunal system as a whole. The issues discussed in relation to tribunals are familiar but 'integrity' is a new lens through which to view them and the article concludes by assessing how well decisions about and by tribunals are meeting selected integrity measures (Part B).


A Meaning of Integrity

In common parlance integrity is the antithesis of corruption. But as with many words in the English language, there are subtleties of meaning. The Macquarie Dictionary defines integrity in these terms: 'integrity'; (1.) Soundness of moral principle and character, uprightness, honesty; (2.) The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished; (3.) Sound unimpaired, or perfect condition'. (1) The word comes from the Latin 'integritas' meaning 'soundness, chastity, integrity'. A related word is an 'integer' or a whole number. So integrity refers to wholeness or health, that is, someone or something that is functioning properly and as intended.

As the definition indicates, the word has dual meanings: the references to moral principles and character, honesty and indeed chastity refer to individual behaviour; whereas the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished is institutional in focus. In other words, the word has both a behavioural or personal, and an institutional or systemic sense. (2) Despite there being separate senses in which integrity is used, the meanings are interconnected. The differences become important when identifying the measures to test individual as compared to institutional integrity.

B Measuring Integrity

It is one thing to know what integrity means, and another to know how it is measured. There are some general principles which should underpin those measures. To be valuable, the measures of integrity must be targeted, and test specific and key operational elements of a tribunal or the tribunal system. The task is not an easy one. As two OECD researchers expressed it: 'Assessment of integrity and corruption prevention policies pose special challenges for policy makers and managers, in particular that of determining what is measurable'. (3) Only if that challenge is met will public officials and governments demonstrate that they have been able to 'achieve agreed policy objectives and contribute to outcomes that matter to their managers and to citizens'. (4)

There are essential steps for an effective integrity measuring process. The first is to decide on the activities which provide a litmus test of the health of the system; (5) the second is to establish measures or standards which are indicative of effective operation; (6) the third, is to set up a system for reporting against those measures; finally there is a need to ensure there is evidentiary support for claimed achievements against those standards. This fourth step requires there to be a thorough and objective methodology to assess the evidence underpinning the findings relating to each measure. (7)

C Integrity standards

The attempts to define integrity standards have not always distinguished between the two senses in which the word is used. That is not surprising since they are interconnected. An authoritative source is the seminal study on integrity by AJ Brown and his team. (8) They concluded that the way to judge whether power is being exercised with integrity is through ' reference to the values, purposes and duties for which that power is entrusted to, or held by, the institutions and individual office-holders concerned' (9) That is, they identified that two key measures are the manner of exercise by government of its powers and whether power is being used solely for the purpose for which it was granted. …

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