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Monday, June 29, 2015

Accountability: An essential part of good government

Accountability, responsibility and transparency are some of the vital building blocks of good government. Government officials should serve the public interest, not act for personal gain. Citizens must be able to monitor their government, expose potential conflicts of interest and hold public officials accountable.

The Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Law regulate what public documents citizens can obtain and how to acquire them. The Acts also dictate the public process governments must follow when they hold meetings.

Accountability in Government

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.


What is Accountability?

Broadly speaking, accountability exists when there is 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.

The concept of accountability involves two distinct stages: answerability and enforcement. Answerability refers to 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 in Government?

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.

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Comment:  

     Democracy and Good Government require accountability, and accountability requires transparency...
     The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: "In the face of doubt, openness prevails...  "Non-disclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve...
     The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public... Disclosure should be timely...

Excerpts from the United State Freedom of Information Act