chapter  11
19 Pages

Decentring regulation: tax fraud and the cleaning sector KAReN BOLL

Introduction On the front page of a report entitled ‘Captured in Denmark’ printed in a magazine from the United Federation of Danish Workers is a photo of a resting man (Højgaard et al. 2012). He is sitting on a litter bin at an old-fashioned railway station with gravel on the platform, his shoulders are hanging, his gaze is turned inward, and his hands are resting in his lap. He is from Romania and to the magazine he declares: ‘We were paid 3,700 DKK a month’ [c. €500]. A subtext explains that the man has been working as a cleaner and has been employed by a large cleaning group that has exploited his work. The reportage in the magazine is about cleaning being done in developed democracies by cleaners from Eastern Europe and Africa. These cleaners are often employed by cleaning companies in illegal and exploiting conditions. One aspect of the reportage is a number of gloomy personal stories of such exploitation; another is evidence of the excessive tax evasion on the part of the cleaning companies and their subcontractors. These cheat the treasury, and the revenue authority’s regulation is severely questioned. In brief, a rethinking of the regulation is called for because what used to be done to regulate is out of touch with current challenges. Much of today’s rethinking about, and reform of, state regulation starts with a number of modernist rationalities and concepts. User-involvement, participation, collaboration, nudging, partnerships, and co-production are buzz-words for today’s governance efforts and form a ruling narrative about what constitutes good and effective public administration. Specifically, within revenue collection the OECD forcefully argues for ‘engaging’ and ‘involving’ external stakeholders in the regulatory craft to obtain compliance in a cooperative fashion (OECD 2013). Bevir and Rhodes criticise current accounts of governance for generally being too attached to such reified concepts or formal explanations of – for instance – what works in public administration (Bevir 2010, 2013; Bevir and Rhodes 2010). In contrast, Bevir and Rhodes present a decentred theory of governance in which the diversity of governing practices is emphasised and in which the historical explanations of these practices play a central role. They argue that governance should be seen as a set of diverse practices that people create and recreate through their concrete activity.