Development Cooperation Handbook/Definitions/Accountability

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Definitions  

Obligation to demonstrate that work has been conducted in compliance with agreed rules and standards or to report fairly and accurately on performance results vis à vis mandated roles and/or plans. For instance, a report to parliament, to a board or a constituency answers to the accountability obligation.

Political accountability is the accountability of the government, civil servants and politicians to the public and to legislative bodies such as congress or parliament.

In a few cases, recall elections can be used to revoke the office of an elected official. Generally, however, voters do not have any direct way of holding elected representatives to account during the term for which they have been elected. Additionally, some officials and legislators may be appointed rather than elected. Constitution, or statute, can empower a legislative body to hold their own members, the government, and government bodies to account. This can be through holding an internal or independent inquiry. Inquiries are usually held in response to an allegation of misconduct or corruption. The powers, procedures and sanctions vary from country to country. The legislature may have the power to impeach the individual, remove them, or suspend them from office for a period of time. The accused person might also decide to resign before trial. Impeachment in the United States has been used both for elected representatives and other civil offices, such as district court judges.

In parliamentary systems, the government relies on the support or parliament, which gives parliament power to hold the government to account. For example, some parliaments can pass a vote of no confidence in the government.

Ethical accountability
Ethical accountability is the practice of improving overall personal and organizational performance by developing and promoting responsible tools and professional expertise, and by advocating an effective enabling environment for people and organizations to embrace a culture of sustainable development. Ethical accountability may include the individual, as well as small and large businesses, not-for-profit organizations, research institutions and academics, and government. One scholarly paper has posited that "it is unethical to plan an action for social change without excavating the knowledge and wisdom of the people who are responsible for implementing the plans of action and the people whose lives will be affected."

 Administrative accountability
Internal rules and norms as well as some independent commission are mechanisms to hold civil servant within the administration of government accountable. Within department or ministry, firstly, behavior is bounded 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 interest. Apart from internal checks, some “watchdog” units accept complaints from citizens, bridging government and society to hold civil servants accountable to citizens, but not merely governmental departments.