Accountability and Responsibility

  • Accountability means making public officials answerable for their behaviour and responses to the entity from which they derive their authority. Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this. Accountability also means establishing criteria to measure the performance of public officials, as well as oversight mechanisms to ensure that standards are met.
  • In public services, it is a legal concept, as its contours are fixed by the law, and ideally, it includes three things:
    • Answerability: It means one is legally bound to give answers concerning his commissions, and omissions.
    • Enforceability: It means the respective civil servant is liable to be punished according to the law if he is found to be guilty of discharging his official duties.
    • Grievance redressal: It means the aggrieved person should have a sufficient institutional mechanism to be heard and resolve his grievances.

How it can be ensured?

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Why is it needed?

  • 1. It prevents the public services from turning into tyrants as they are held answerable for their deeds and misdeeds.
  • Avoids conflict of interests-Setting accountability demarcates the area of one’s actions where he or she is required to act.
  • The first and last beneficiary of public service is the public, as the public services are required to act in the interest of the public and they are answerable for their actions.
  • Promotes justice, equality, and egalitarianism because public servants are required to realize these constitutional ideals and at the same time they are answerable for their actions.
  • It brings legitimacy to public services- Accountability promotes loyalty to service as actions are carefully calculated and keep a check on arbitrary and ill-conceived actions and policies.
  • Be it fear of legal consequences or an outcome of one’s morality, owing accountability for their actions motivates public servants to discharge their duty with honesty, integrity and efficiency.


  • It means accountability to oneself, i.e. when the accountability turns inward. It is a moral concept, where a person feels answerable to oneself for all his actions, even if it is not covered by any law.
  • It is more enduring than accountability, because it is based on ethical reasoning, and the person would always do the right thing, even if nobody is there to watch his action, as he holds himself answerable to himself. Here the person takes ownership of one’s actions and decisions Though, these terms are used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between the two.
  • Accountability makes the person accountable for the consequences of the actions or decisions made by him/her. As against this, consequences are not necessarily attached to the responsibility. Further, accountability requires a person to be liable and answerable for the things, he/she does.
  • Conversely, responsibility expects a person to be reliable to complete the tasks assigned to him. Responsibility is said to be attached to ethical maturity, therefore to inculcate
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