Commentary: Acting in the public interest: Where is the accountability in governance?

By D. Markie Spring

Every citizen should have the desire to hold their government accountable!

After all, the monies the government spends belongs to the ‘people’ and it is the will of the people that put the government into power. The government is likened to the CEO of a corporation where the CEO is employed by the stakeholders. The CEO in turn has the obligation to work, not in his/her own interest, but in the interest of the shareholders – to maximize their wealth. Likewise, the government that is elected by the ‘people’ must work in the best interest of the entire nation, not in their own interest or the interest of the ‘chosen few’.

The notion of accountability is amorphous in nature – a concept that practitioners found increasingly onerous to explain. However, the World Bank concluded that, from a wider perspective, accountability is present when there is a correlation – where the performance of tasks or functions of an individual or body is subject to further oversight direction or an appeal for information or justification for their actions.

Consequently, the concept of accountability necessitates two distinct levels: answerability – where the government, its agencies and public officials are obliged to provide information concerning their decisions, actions and inactions to justify these criteria to the public and those institutions of accountability; and enforcement, which suggests that the public or the institutions tasked with the authority of accountability can warrant the offending party or remedy contravening behaviour.

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