Public accountability exist when there is a relationship where an individual or body, and 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.
Any nation whose leaders are not accountable to its citizens will find it difficult to grow and develop. Accountability is one of the cornerstones of good governance in developed nations and in leadership roles.
Accountability is the acknowledgement and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions and policies including the administration, governance and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.
It is disheartening today that in less developed and developing nations their leaders and public officials do not have any regards for accountability. Non accountability by the leaders of such countries has made them remain stagnant in their growth and development.
There is no doubt that accountability is one of these golden concepts nobody can be against. It is increasingly used in public discourse and policy documentation because it conveys the image of transparency ad trustworthiness.
Accountability means the commitment required from public officials, individually, collectively, to accept public responsibility for their actions and inactions. The concept of accountability on its own does not necessarily imply public accountability; public accountability goes hand in hand with representative democracy and its associated rights of the citizens and obligations for public officials.
The ultimate value of public accountability is that elected representatives and public officials are required to conduct public dialogue among themselves on what to do and not worth doing.
Public accountability is also defined as the obligation to answer publicly to report, to an acceptable standard of answering for the discharge of responsibilities that affect the public.
The concept of public accountability is the hallmark of modern democratic governance. Democracy remains meaningless if those in power cannot be held accountable in public for their actions, omission, decision, policies, including expenditure.
Types of Public Accountability
Political Accountability: this is the accountability of government, civil servants and politicians to the public and to legislative bodies such as the National Assembly that is, upper and lower house. This accountability is also used to revoke the office of an elected official if such person is not accountable through legislative bodies or agencies; this is because voters do not have a direct right of holding elected representatives to account, during the time for which they have been elected.
According to Hood (2000), constitution can empower legislature to hold their members, government and government bodies to account. This can be done through holding independent inquiries.
Inquires are usually held in response to allegations of misconduct or corruption. Though the powers, procedures and sanctions differs from country to country, the legislative body may have power to impeach the individual, remove them or suspend them from office for a period of time.
Administrative Accountability: this accountability is based on the internal rules and norms as well as some independent commissions which are the mechanism to hold civil servants with the administration of government accountable.
Civil servants are subordinates in a hierarchy and accountable to their superior. Nonetheless, there are independent “Watch dog like Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that scrutinize and hold them accountable, as to avoid conflicts of interest.