Sunday, May 3, 2009

More on Group Accountability

Touched on collective accountability on a blog previous. While on the subject...

Interesting, somewhat studious and didactic but overall thorough white paper I found on Public Accountability becoming both practicable and conscionable in democratic Taiwan --- published to Australian Journal of Public Administration as special edition:

"Accountability is answerability for conduct and responsibility" Source also cites Rethinking Democratic Accountability, Behn (2001:3)

"it is much easier to design and implement systems to track financial or legal accountability...the most difficult area for designing and implementing an accountability mechanism is that of [...] performance-based accountability. However, the truth is that this is at least as important to taxpayers, if not more so. Performance means many things to different stakeholders, ranging from public service quality, efficiency, public service satisfaction, policy outputs, policy outcomes, the perception of fairness, or even the extent of public participation."

Yet partial control and a network of complexity of delivery, outsourcing to private sector and losing a more complete and necessary oversight, or changing perspectives of performance could be an entirely legitimate problem of implementing ways to effectively measure it. And a solution is not always in overcoming a problem entirely, but use the remainder as an opportunity to handle the next. Public implementation is a process, not a race with pit-stops to get squirted with champagne. On reading the piece one cannot help but think the old adage that "polity is the art of the possible" because it seems to relate well to public group accountability too.

Also, there is a continuation of responsibility involved beyond the immediate here-and-now that commercial and market interest is usually for. Hence commercial type performance can be more readily applied to legal issues (insurance, risk minimization) and economic (budgeting, cash flow, accounting) than to social policy performance (success with the process of a publicly mediated environmental macro-infrastructure.)

Considering performance based accountability, in general, also raises the spectre of Quality Assurance in the Public Sector as well as it has been already applied in the Private. And there ARE standards of accountability. I would think that precisely in the social accountability field they are well captured in the ramifications of a continuous development program than in a fixed definition of a methodology of how to get results.

I find this set of standards a quite a a thorough one:

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