Accountability in Governance - Yj Draiman
Accountability ensures actions and decisions taken by public officials are subject to oversight so as to guarantee that government initiatives meet their stated objectives and respond to the needs ... of the community they are meant to be benefiting, thereby contributing to better governance and poverty reduction.
Accountability is one of the cornerstones of good governance; however, it can be
difficult for scholars and practitioners alike to navigate the myriad of different types of
accountability. Recently, there has been a growing discussion within both the academic and development communities about the different accountability typologies.
This Note outlines the present debate focusing on the definition and substance of
different forms of accountability and considers the key role that legislatures play
in ensuring accountability.
What is Accountability?
The notion of accountability is an amorphous concept that is difficult to define in precise terms. However, broadly speaking, a relationship where an individual or body, and the performance of tasks or functions by that individual or body, are subject to another's oversight, direction or request that they provide information or justification for their actions.
Therefore, the concept of accountability involves two distinct stages:
accountability exists when there is answerability and the obligation of the government, its agencies and public officials to provide information about their decisions and actions and to justify them to the public and those institutions of accountability tasked with providing oversight. Enforcement suggests that the public or the institution responsible for accountability can sanction the offending party or remedy the contravening behavior. As such, different institutions of accountability might be responsible for either or both of these stages.
Why is Accountability Important to Governance?
Evaluating the ongoing effectiveness of public officials or public bodies ensures that they are performing to their full potential, providing value for money in the provision of public services, instilling confidence in the government and being responsive to the
community they are meant to be serving.
What types of Accountability?
The concept of accountability can be classified according to the type of accountability exercised and/ or the person, group or institution the public official answers to. The present debate as to the content of different forms of accountability is best conceptualized by reference to opposing forms of accountability. As such the main forms of accountability are described below in reference to their opposing, or alternate, concept.