Transparency and accountability

Florini (1999) contended that transparency as a term is loosely defined because it is used in different areas. In politics, the term means providing information to the citizens to enable them to scrutinize the actions of government. She defined transparency as “the release of information by institutions that is relevant to evaluating those institutions” (Florini, 1999, p. 5). Johnston, Gary, and David (2005, p. 2) presented transparency as, “official business conducted in such a way that substantive and procedural information is available to, and broadly understandable by, people and groups in society, subject to reasonable limits protecting security and privacy.” Joshi (2013, p. 31) defined transparency initiatives as, “any attempts (by states or citizens) to place information or processes that were previously opaque in the public domain, accessible for use by citizen groups or policy-makers.” Graham, Amos, Plumptre (2003) posited that transparency is deeply rooted in the principles of good governance which include some principles discussed in Tabel 7.1.

Transparency is closely connected to accountability because, through the information that is made available to the citizens, those in power are called upon to account for their actions. Accountability refers to the legal reporting framework, organizational structures, strategy, procedures and actions (The International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions, n.d.). Iacovino (2010, p. 181) defined accountability as, “synonymous with transparency, openness, trust and responsibility, as opposed to secrecy, cover-up, and corruption.” Stapenhurst (n.d., p. 1) offered the definition of accountability as “an amorphous concept that is difficult to define in precise terms.” However, 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. McGee et al. (2010, p. 4) quoted Tisne (2010, p. 2) who defined accountability as, “the process of holding actors responsible for their actions. More specifically, it is the concept that individuals, agencies and organizations (public, private and civil society) are held responsible for executing their powers according to a certain standard (whether set mutually or not).” Borowiak (2011, p. 1) used the term “democratic accountability” as “a sovereign national community of citizens who delegate governing authority to public officials. As an expression of their ultimate authority, these citizens then hold those officials to account for how well they have carried out their governing responsibilities.” Accountability is globally viewed as a standard of political legitimacy. Its opposite, nonaccountability, is a measure of dysfunction. Accountability has an ethical dimension and cannot be entirely legislated (Iacovino, 2010).

 
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