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In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving.[1] As an aspect of governance, it has been central to discussions related to problems in the public sector, nonprofit and private (corporate) and individual contexts. In leadership roles,[2] accountability is the acknowledgment 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.

In governance, accountability has expanded beyond the basic definition of "being called to account for one's actions".[3][4] It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e.g. "A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A's (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct".[5] Accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices; in other words, an absence of accounting means an absence of accountability. Another key area that contributes to accountability is good records management.[6]

History and etymology

"Accountability" stems from late Latin accomptare (to account), a prefixed form of

In governance, accountability has expanded beyond the basic definition of "being called to account for one's actions".[3][4] It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e.g. "A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A's (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct".[5] Accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices; in other words, an absence of accounting means an absence of accountability. Another key area that contributes to accountability is good records management.[6]

"Accountability" stems from late Latin accomptare (to account), a prefixed form of computare (to calculate), which in turn derived from putare (to reckon).[7] While the word itself does not appear in English until its use in 13th century Norman England,[8][9] the concept of account-giving has ancient roots in record keeping activities related to governance and money-lending systems that first developed in Ancient Egypt,[10] Israel,[11] Babylon,[12] Greece,[13] and later, Rome.[14]

Political

Political accountability is when a politician makes choices on behalf of the people and the people have the ability to reward or sanction the politician.[15] In representative democracies citizens delegate power to elected officials through periodic elections in order to represent or act in their interest.[15] The challenge then becomes why would rulers with such power, who presumably have divergent interests from the people, act in the best interest of the people?[16] Citizens can rely on rewards or sanctions to threaten or reward politicians who might otherwise act antithetical to the people's interest.[16] Accountability occurs when citizens only vote to re-elect representatives who act in their interests, and if representatives then select policies that will help them be re-elected.[16] "Governments are 'accountable' if voters can discern whether governments are acting in their interest and sanction them appropriately, so that those incumbents who act in the best interest of the citizens win reelection and those who do not lose them."[16]

Representatives can be held accountable through two mechanisms: electoral replacement and rational anticipation.[17] In electoral replacement citizens vote to replace representatives who are out of step with their interests. Rational anticipation requires that representatives anticipate the consequences of being out of step with their constituency and then govern in accordance with citizens' wishes to avoid negative consequences.[17] Accountability can still be achieved even if citizens are not perfectly knowledgeable about representative's actions as long as representatives believe that they will be held accountable by citizens they will still act in accordance with the citizens' interests.[18]

Electoral

Electoral accountability refers to citizens using the vote to sanction or reward politicians, but other forms of political accountability do exist.[16]

Some researchers have considered the accountability using formal theory, which makes assumptions about the state of the world to draw larger conclusions (link). Voters can hold representatives accountable through the process of sanctioning, voters voting the incumbent out of office in response to poor performance.[19] While politicians face a decrease in vote share as a result of poor performance, they are less likely to see an increase in vote share for good performance.[20] Selection, voters choosing candidates based on who will best represent their interests, is another method by which voters hold their representative accountable.[19] These methods of accountability can occur simultaneously with voters holding representatives accountable using sanctioning and selection.[19] These conclusions rely on the assumption that voters do not observe the policy implemented by the incumbent, but do know their own welfare.[19]

Some factors make it harder for voters to sanction incumbents. When politicians do not have control over the outcomes, then accountability breaks down because it is harder to hold them accountable.[20] Further, when organizations are unable to monitor elections and provide information to voters, then voters struggle to sanction the incumbent.[21] Thus, whe

Political accountability is when a politician makes choices on behalf of the people and the people have the ability to reward or sanction the politician.[15] In representative democracies citizens delegate power to elected officials through periodic elections in order to represent or act in their interest.[15] The challenge then becomes why would rulers with such power, who presumably have divergent interests from the people, act in the best interest of the people?[16] Citizens can rely on rewards or sanctions to threaten or reward politicians who might otherwise act antithetical to the people's interest.[16] Accountability occurs when citizens only vote to re-elect representatives who act in their interests, and if representatives then select policies that will help them be re-elected.[16] "Governments are 'accountable' if voters can discern whether governments are acting in their interest and sanction them appropriately, so that those incumbents who act in the best interest of the citizens win reelection and those who do not lose them."[16]

Representatives can be held accountable through two mechanisms: electoral replacement and rational anticipation.[17] In electoral replacement citizens vote to replace representatives who are out of step with their i

Representatives can be held accountable through two mechanisms: electoral replacement and rational anticipation.[17] In electoral replacement citizens vote to replace representatives who are out of step with their interests. Rational anticipation requires that representatives anticipate the consequences of being out of step with their constituency and then govern in accordance with citizens' wishes to avoid negative consequences.[17] Accountability can still be achieved even if citizens are not perfectly knowledgeable about representative's actions as long as representatives believe that they will be held accountable by citizens they will still act in accordance with the citizens' interests.[18]

Electoral accountability refers to citizens using the vote to sanction or reward politicians, but other forms of political accountability do exist.[16]

Some researchers have considered the accountability using formal theory, which makes assumptions about the state of the world to draw larger conclusions (link). Voters can hold representati

Some researchers have considered the accountability using formal theory, which makes assumptions about the state of the world to draw larger conclusions (link). Voters can hold representatives accountable through the process of sanctioning, voters voting the incumbent out of office in response to poor performance.[19] While politicians face a decrease in vote share as a result of poor performance, they are less likely to see an increase in vote share for good performance.[20] Selection, voters choosing candidates based on who will best represent their interests, is another method by which voters hold their representative accountable.[19] These methods of accountability can occur simultaneously with voters holding representatives accountable using sanctioning and selection.[19] These conclusions rely on the assumption that voters do not observe the policy implemented by the incumbent, but do know their own welfare.[19]

Some factors make it harder for voters to sanction incumbents. When politicians do not have control over the outcomes, then accountability breaks down because it is harder to hold them accountable.[20] Further, when organizations are unable to monitor elections and provide information to voters, then voters struggle to sanction the incumbent.[21] Thus, when voters have more information about the incumbent's performance, the incumbent is more likely to voter sanctioning.[21] Further, when incumbents face sanctioning, challengers are more like to enter the race.[21]

Refer to the liability of government servants to give a satisfactory account of the use of their power and resources. It is often that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Therefore, checking the accountability is the basis of the success of Public Administration.

Public goods

Pol

Politicians may be incentivized to provide public goods as a means of accountability.[22] The ability of voters to attribute credit and blame of outcomes also determines the extent of public goods provision.[22][23] Research suggests that public goods provision is conditional on being able to attribute outcomes to politicians as opposed to civil servants.[23] This can be enhanced by more short-run and visible inputs and outcomes such as famine relief or drinking water, whereas low-visibility issues such as sanitation and education may be more difficult to attribute credit and thus less likely to provided.[22]

Another condition determining how voters use the provision of public goods to hold leaders accountable is whether the prioritization of public goods is determined either directly via vote or delegated to a governing body.[24]Another condition determining how voters use the provision of public goods to hold leaders accountable is whether the prioritization of public goods is determined either directly via vote or delegated to a governing body.[24][25] An experiment in New Mexico regarding proposed spending during the state's 2008 special summer legislative session provides evidence that legislators update their positions when learning about voters' policy preferences, indicating representative democracy can increase accountability when politicians learn about voters' preferences.[24] A 2016 experiment in Afghanistan regarding rural development projects, however, finds that when voters directly prioritize their preferences at the ballot box, they perceive the quality of local government to be higher than when a governing committee prioritizes development projects.[25] These contrasting outcomes highlight the trustee-vs-delegate debate, though the lack of objective superior outcomes in projects decided by vote as opposed to committee in the Afghanistan experiment indicate neither is superior to the other in determining which public good should be given priority.[26][27]

Other research indicates voters use elections to hold politicians accountable for the provision of public goods.[28][29] In India, rural areas are charged a flat rate for electricity, but in the province of Uttar Pradesh, line loss - electricity that is consumed but not billed bill - is significantly higher in election years relative to non-election years and increases in line loss reliably predict electoral gains.[28] To put this in context, voters rewarded incumbent politicians with a 12% increase in party seats in response to a 10% increase of unbilled electricity in 2007 elections.[28] In Ghana, the improvement of road conditions is linked to increasing vote share for incumbent parties.[29] Both of these research outcomes hinge on the context of voters being able to attribute the service of public goods to politicians, however.[28][29][23]

Politicians may also have incentives to respond to pressure for public goods provision in electoral autocracies.[30][31] There is evidence that as autocratic governments lose seats in their party legislatures, they respond by increasing spending on public goods such as education, healthcare, and pensions.[30] There is further evidence suggesting higher quality of life, civil liberties, and human development in electoral autocracies, lending credence to the theory that autocratic rulers use elections as a bellwether against popular discontent and citizen opposition and in turn increase public goods provision to dampen grievances of disgruntled citizens, even in non-democracies.[31]

Governments are held accountable if citizens can punish and/or reward the government to influence it to pursue the best interests of citizens.[32] While scholars who study democratic theory emphasize the role of elections in ensuring accountability,[33][34][35][36][37] another strand of scholars investigates non-electoral forms of accountability in democracies and non-democracies[38][39][40][41] and the conditions that make unelected leaders represent the interests of the general public.[42][43][44][45]

Political protest<

Political changes after protests can be the result of the protests per se or symptoms of shifts in political preferences underneath the observable phenomena of the protests. One study of the Tea Party movement in the United States has shown that protests per se have an impact on political change.[38] Other scholars have studied the effect of protests on political changes in developing countries. Mass protests instigated by economic hardship and political repression occurred in 16 sub-Saharan African countries, and 21 governments in the region implemented significant political reforms such as adoption of multiparty elections.[39] Authoritarian regimes in Africa distorted the market and reduced the cost of farm produce in favor of urban workers at the cost of rural farmers in the 1980s to prevent urban unrest, which is more visible and easier to mobilize than rural protests.[46]

Selectorate

Belsky et al. p

Belsky et al. point out, whereas, under more democratic governance accountability is built into the institution of the state by a habit of regular elections, accountability in autocratic regimes[47] relies on a selectorate; a group that legitimizes or delegitimizes the autocrats powers according to selectorate theory. The primary mechanism at a selectorate's disposal is deposition, which is a form of exit. Beyond that institutions can act as credible restraints on autocracy as well.

Civil society

In democracies, voluntary associations, interest groups, and associational activity can improve the performance of the government.[48][49][50][51] One study has also shown that civil society organizations such as NGOs can increase the performance of local government according to the central government's standards by monitoring and disclosing information about local government performance in authoritarian regimes like China.[40] Solidary groups – groups based on shared moral obligations and interests – in rural China, where members of the group share moral obligations and interests, can hold local officials accountable as well.[42]

At the local level, various accountability measures exist that impact the job performance of elected officials.[52][53][52][53][54] In Uganda, civil society organizations (CSOs) that divulge to the public how well an incumbent is performing their job duties, in a district with an upcoming competitive election, increases the performance of the politician for the rest of their term.[55] In contrast to these works, meta-analysis released in 2019 uncover no effects from CSO voter information campaigns on political accountability after examining the results from seven trials across six countries.[56] In Ghana, election-day monitoring of polling centers for district-level positions, as well as gaining awareness of monitoring in an upcoming election, increases job performance among incumbents as these officials spent more of their annual Constituency Development Fund allocations from the central government on public goods for the electorate.[52] In locales with weaker institutions, when citizens elect leaders with higher levels of competency, these officials have a greater ability to overcome the barriers of bad informal institutions and deliver more goods anShared d long-term investment projects for the constituency without needing to raise their taxes.[53] Additionally, many local elections are for positions that involve performing jobs with a single function, such as school board member or sheriff. These elected officials are held accountable to their positions mainly through the information provided to the public through the media.[54] When the media focuses attention on data trends associated with these positions, constituents are then able to use this information to retrospectively vote for or against the incumbent based on the performance shown while in office.[54]

Approval ratings generated through public opinion polling create a measure of job performance during an incumbent's term that has implications for whether the official will retain their seat, or if reelection will even be sought.[57][58] These approval ratings are predictors of election outcomes when combined with other factors included in Bayesian Model Averaging forecasts.[59] In the United States, senator job approval ratings affect whether a senator will retire, the quality of candidates that seek to challenge the incumbent, the amount of money the senator can raise to seek reelection if they decide to run, and the outcome of the election itself.[57] Thus, strategic incumbent senators will seek reelection less when their approval ratings are low during their time in office.[57][58]

Accountability for unelected leaders

The solidary groups in rural China can hold local officials accountable when 1) the solidary group encompasses everyone under the local government's jurisdiction, and 2) local officials are embedded in the group as members; the recognition from these groups encourages local officials to carry out their official tasks as they value high moral standing in the group.The solidary groups in rural China can hold local officials accountable when 1) the solidary group encompasses everyone under the local government's jurisdiction, and 2) local officials are embedded in the group as members; the recognition from these groups encourages local officials to carry out their official tasks as they value high moral standing in the group.[42]

Shared-interests

Traditional leaders in Zambia provide loca

Traditional leaders in Zambia provide local public goods despite the fact that they lack an electoral incentive to provide public goods.[44] Many customary chiefs never leave the communities they lead permanently and depend on local sources for a significant portion of their income, thus, traditional leaders may facilitate bringing local public goods in the present and benefit from the community's development over time just like stationary bandits in Olson's argument.[44][41]

Accountability and corruption

Internal rules and norms as well as some independent commission are mechanisms to hold civil servants within the administration of government accountable. Within department or ministry, firstly, behavior is bound by rules and regulations; secondly, civil servants are subordinates in a hierarchy and accountable to superiors. Nonetheless, there are independent "watchdog" units to scrutinize and hold departments accountable; legitimacy of these commissions is built upon their independence, as it avoids any conflicts of interests. The accountability is define

Internal rules and norms as well as some independent commission are mechanisms to hold civil servants within the administration of government accountable. Within department or ministry, firstly, behavior is bound by rules and regulations; secondly, civil servants are subordinates in a hierarchy and accountable to superiors. Nonetheless, there are independent "watchdog" units to scrutinize and hold departments accountable; legitimacy of these commissions is built upon their independence, as it avoids any conflicts of interests. The accountability is defined as "an element which is part of a unique responsibility and which represents an obligation of an actor to achieve the goal, or to perform the procedure of a task, and the justification that it is done to someone else, under threat of sanction".[72]

Security

The traceability of actions performed on a system to a specific system entity (user, process, device). For example, the use of unique user identification and authentication supports accountability; the use of shared user IDs and passwords destroys accountability.

Individuals within organizations

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