In Australia, accountability is under the spotlight. But it is not just governments and public sector organisations that need to provide accurate and sufficient information about their decisions and activities - organisations and individuals are also increasingly expected to be transparent.
Accountability means being held to answer for one’s conduct. It means performing tasks respectfully, learning the truth and continuous improvement. There are various forms of accountability and accountability and transparency go hand in hand. In democratic societies, governments, public sector organisations and others who deliver public services must be accountable to the wider public.
In Australia, growing political accountability is of particular significance. Signs that it is alive and well are when governments provide accurate, sufficient information to citizens about their decisions and activities, or when ministers resign if they have engaged in misconduct or overseen major administrative blunders.
Accountability also extends to other powerful organisations. An accountable organisation is one that provides information about its decision and activities, responds to criticisms, and accepts sanctions when it acts inappropriately. For example, it is reasonable to expect corporations to be accountable to employees and investors, and also to account to the population for anticipated or actual impacts of their activities on the environment and the broader community.
Accountability is a value that is as relevant to individuals as it is to organisations, whether they be public sector institutions or companies. Individual citizens should also be accountable to the broader community for their conduct. This means respecting the rights of others and being engaged in the local community to make it a better place for everyone. It means that accountability is strongly related to responsibility.