How to make sense of government accountability
SUBMITTED BY KERINA WANG ON WED,
Accountability is an elusive concept, but understanding where it originates can help citizens find ways to hold governments accountable.
In the narrowest sense, accountability is equated with answerability; it refers to the obligation to give an account of one’s action to particular individuals, groups, or organizations. However, in a world where public administrators increasingly operate in intergovernmental networks and global coalitions, deciphering what constitutes accountability in public management has become a challenging task.
One of the simplest ways to unravel the mystery of accountability for public administrators is to trace back to the root sources; and examine how it unfolds across varying levels to affect governmental decision-making.
Political Accountability Political accountability is arguably the strongest form of governance
Bureaucratic Accountability The stereotypical command-and-control relationship is in full force in bureaucratic accountability
Citizen Accountability Citizens can hold government administrators accountable through participation laws
Legal Accountability Legal accountability is based on relationships between members of a government agency and lawmakers outside it. Lawmakers can impose legal sanctions or formal contractual arrangements. It should be highlighted that this relationship is different from the supervisor and subordinate arrangement in bureaucratic accountability, which is in essence hierarchical. In legal accountability, the two parties are autonomous; and it involves a judiciary agreement between legislators and public managers.
Professional Accountability Professional accountability has become a novel way to instill discipline into government activities
Lastly, in our interconnected world, public administrators usually face multiple channels of internal and external accountability pressures, and different accountability streams often conflict with one another. In practice, the codified laws or administrative procedures may sometimes run contrary to what professional judgment or ethical values entail. To effectively hold governments to account, an integrated perspective is crucial
Good read on the structures of accountability. However, must not miss reference to transparency in all government decision making and processes for service delivery, as in transparency is the foundation/ basis of any type of accountability
I agree, transparency is vital but very difficult to monitor. If a government or individuals in power preach transparency how can we, the public & the electorate, be sure everything is actually visible & not just what they want us to see?
Nothing is easy, especially bringing transparency in government functioning. Effective right to information laws, independent media, rules/regulations requiring transparency in government decision making and accountability through democratic structures and electoral process will bring in transparency. Effective checks against corruption are another must. Governance reform is a complex process. We can break down the key ingredients of good governance, but can only bring about change through holistic reform.