Governance and Accountability

7 July 2016

Accountability is the cornerstone of an effective organization. It begins with the individual, whether a soldier, a civilian, employee, manager, supervisor, CEO, or General Officer. I want to first look at the definition of accountability, its impact on leadership in all walks of life, both civilian and military, and finally, how to implement effective accountability in a organization. Let’s first look at the meaning of the word accountability both in its root definition, and current usage .

The DoD defines it as “The obligation imposed by laws or lawful order or regulation on an officer or other person for keeping accurate record of property, documents, or funds. The person having this obligation may or may not have actual possession of the property, documents, or funds. Accountability is concerned primarily with records, while responsibility is concerned primarily with custody, care, and safekeeping. ” But on closer look, a simple dictionary defines it as “ According to the Collins World English Dictionary Responsibility is: “1. the state or position of being responsible 2.

Governance and Accountability Essay Example

a person or thing for which one is responsible 3. the ability or authority to act or decide on one’s own, without supervision. ” Traditionally, leaders and other command elites have not seen themselves accountable as individuals. They were either above the law, as sovereign — rex non potest peccare (“the King can do no wrong”) — or they had immunity just because they were leaders (immunity rationae materiae). Alternatively, they were considered mere representatives of a state or organization which, it was believed, carried the responsibility for any wrongdoings.

Writing in 1915, historian R. Michels was not optimistic about change: “Historical evolution mocks all the preventive measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy. If laws are passed to control the dominion of the leaders, it is the laws which gradually weaken, and not the leaders. “. In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. As an aspect of governance, it has been central to discussions related to problems in the public sector, nonprofit and private (corporate) worlds.

In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences. In governance, accountability has expanded beyond the basic definition of “being called to account for one’s actions”. It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e. g.

“A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct”. Accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices; in other words, an absence of accounting means an absence of accountability. Internal rules and norms as well as some independent commission are mechanisms to hold civil servants within the management of government accountable. Within department or agency, firstly, behavior is bound by rules and regulations; secondly, civil servants are subordinates in a hierarchy and accountable to superiors.

Nonetheless, there are independent “watchdog” units to scrutinize and hold departments accountable; legitimacy of these commissions is built upon their independence, as it avoids any conflicts of interests. But the globalization of personal accountability is now catching up with the globalization of personal power. Names such as Milosevic, Estrada, Cheng, Pinochet, Fujimori, Berlusconi, Enron, Union Carbide, and Grace have been brought into the accountability frame, as were Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, George W.

Bush, and Tony Blair. Violence surrounding the 9/11 attacks on America represented “retributive accountability” by all parties; but this “global feuding” does not follow the traditional retributive ethic of an “eye for an eye” and is, therefore, uniquely problematic. A Global Leadership Responsibility Index (GLRI) can assess leadership conduct by using indicators such as ratification of international agreements, aggressive intervention in other countries, perceptions of corruption, and ecological footprint.

America comes below China, Japan, and South Korea, and the Index proposes that leadership in smaller countries is more responsible than in large states. We can see this issue brought out in the actions of even large governments, such as Malawi recently. An excerpt from this fascinating article brings home how important even government accountability is. “A senior official has been shot, millions of dollars are missing and there are suspects at the highest level of government. It sounds like something from a spy thriller, but in fact it is the unfolding Cashgate scandal in Malawi, which has caught the imagination of the world’s media.

The hole in the country’s finances and the suspension of donor aid will have a knock-on effect on the ability to pay salaries to teachers, nurses and other public servants. It is likely to result in public service cuts, with district officials potentially left without the resources to fund even the most basic provisions such as ambulances or medicines. ” 2 At its core, accountability is the responsibility to act. It is the commitment to do the right thing and stand by your decisions.

Perhaps most importantly, it is a quality that must come from within; dishearteningly, even as legislators, shareholders, customers, and community activists are demanding greater accountability from corporate leaders, too many are waiting for some third party to take action. Whatever the endeavor, it is ultimately the individual who must hold himself to the highest standard first. Those who manage by accountability viscerally know that external rules cannot substitute for character. And they know that accountability is a quality that can be developed, honed through practice, and encouraged in others. In some cases it may be Congress (e.

g. , Sarbanes-Oxley legislation), the media, the company’s legal or communications department, Wall Street, disgruntled customers, or angry community activists. This is not to say that formal accountability programs are useless; they do play an important role. Nevertheless, it is ultimately the individual who must hold himself to the highest standard first—without waiting to be told, pushed, or prodded. Those who manage by accountability viscerally know that external rules cannot substitute for character. And they also know that accountability can be developed, honed through practice, and encouraged in

others. Managing by accountability demonstrates how leaders who embark on a management philosophy of personal accountability imbue their organizations with the qualities of integrity and responsibility. It’s important to note that social accountabiltity is also on the rise ““As we move toward a more social and transparent workplace environment, influence is becoming less dependent on your place in the org chart and more on the real, measurable impact you have on your colleagues,” 3. The word accountability is often inaccurately defined, and ineffectively applied.

In the workplace, accountability is defined as the act of holding others responsible or answerable for their actions (good or bad), for exemplary job performance, and achieving business results. Accountability is not demoralizing staff members for the sake of making a point or an example of them. It is not directing staff members in a condescending manner, or by fear and intimidation. Accountability is about setting the expectation, clearly communicating it, and then holding yourself and everyone within your sphere of influence responsible for consistently meeting the established expectations.

Accountability is a process, with a beginning and an end. It is not about telling people what you expect them to do, then quickly moving on to the next thing. People cannot be held accountable for what they have not been informed of. Don’t assume employees know what a good job looks like. Paint the picture by clarifying, detailing, and outlining what you expect. Keep in mind, you don’t clarify expectations after something goes wrong, at that point you should be reinforcing them.

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