Accountability as a Characteristic of Good Governance
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Governance is a process that is related to the methods, approaches, and techniques that are used to exercise authority and power, as well as distribute them within the body. Governance is considered to be “good” when those authority and power are not concentrated in the single political group or individual. In order to achieve sustainably good performance of governance at any level, including local, provincial or national, certain principles and rules have to be followed, such as the rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, and accountability. Latter is a crucial component for sustainable and effective governance.
Accountability is a principle of the effective governance and is an obligation of the governing body to answer for the implementation of its assigned responsibilities. In other words, accountability is a process of reporting and delivering information to the public about results and achievements of the work accomplished. Major elements of the effective process of accountability, for example in the context of the provincial government, are the following: goals that are set and responsibilities that are assigned should be easy to measure; detailed plans of activities need to be developed; implementation of the activities should be executed according to the plan with constant and consistent monitoring of the progress; provincial government should constantly report to the public about current state and achieved results; and finally, evaluation of the accomplishments provides an opportunity for the government to estimate effectiveness of its performance as well as provide feedback (McCandles, 2009).
On the level of the provincial government, there are usually a lot of complicated accountability relationships between different bodies. Therefore, it is a complicated task for the government to incorporate effectively accountability into its structures. Effective accountability on the provincial level implies that public resources that are managed by the local government depend on the sound information in order to determine effectiveness of various social, economic, institutional, or other programs that provincial government is implementing. For example, in order to effectively deal with the budget deficit of the province, local decision makers should evaluate performance, as well as optimize allocation of public resources among different programs. Hence, they need to have obtained information about the programs, their outputs, costs, as well as their effect (Cavill & Sohail, 2004).
The issue of the government’s accountability on the provincial level is critical in all countries. For example, in the province of British Columbia (Canada), there are certain provisions for the initiatives of citizens and referendums. At the same time, citizens have the right to recall the elected representative in the case he failed his accountability or other responsibility.
Accountability is an essential principle of effective governance when responsibility is assigned to policy makers and authority is delegated to them by the general public. Therefore, accountability is an obligation of the provincially empowered bodies to answer for the execution of the assigned duties and responsibilities. The basic features of the effective accountability of the information are relevance, comprehensiveness, reliability, and finally comparability. At the same time, the cost of providing the reported information must not be too high and should not go beyond the expected benefit. Information that is included in the accountability reports is further used in the policy decision making process. The latter may substantially affect a large number of people. Therefore, it is crucial for this information to meet required standards (McCandles, 2009).
It is crucial for all forms of accountability reporting to present information about outputs. Reports of government’s accountability include various kinds of information, like local budgets, business plans, financial statements, as well as annual reports. Sharing of this kind of information with the public will help people with the assessment of the performance of the local or provincial government. At the same time, it should be noted that expected results in the accountability reports have to be measurable and clearly expressed. Understandable and accessible measurement of the set goals enables people to evaluate performance and define whether set goals were achieved by the government or not.
A local government accountability report should be comprised of information from all provincial organizations that are accountable to the government body. Every fund and organization accountable to the local government are obliged to prepare plans, budgets, and performance reports. Further, local government evaluates performance of those funds and organizations and estimates effectiveness of the resource use. Therefore, in order to do this, those funds and organizations should make budgets, plans, financial statements, and annual reports (Cavill & Sohail, 2004).
Preparation of plans should be implemented by those bodies and individuals that have been assigned with corresponding responsibilities and duties. The plans should include clearly stated results that are planned to be achieved, actions that are supposed to be implemented and estimated costs. Therefore, planning is considered to be an essential element of the effective accountability process for the local government.
Accountability reports on the performance of the local government, including both financial and annual reports, should consist of information about the actual and planned results. This will make it possible to estimate effectiveness of the local government performance. Finally, accountability is a process of reporting, and as a result reporting is a process that is done in the framework of the assigned responsibilities to different funds and organizations, departments, and institutions. These responsibilities are clearly expressed in the plans and are agreed to by all the stakeholders of the accountability relationship.
Finally, all the accounting reports should be made publicly available and undergo the auditing process. This will make the accountability principle of the effective governance counteract with the transparency and other principles.
Summing up, it should be noted that effective governance at any level can be achieved by employing the principles of effective governance like the rule of law, transparency, accountability, etc. Accountability is a process of precise and clear planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting about the course of actions and accomplishments.