Accountability and Ethical Governance

Accountability and Ethical Governance

This article deals with topic titled ‘Accountability and Ethical Governance.’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’  . For more articles , you can click here



What is Accountability

  • Accountability means answerability of the officials for their decisions and actions.
  • Accountability is  required in case of Public Servants because they have lot of discretion
  • Benefits of Accountability
        • Checks Abuse of power
        • Checks corruption and Fraud
        • lack of accountability decreases the legitimacy of government
        • Makes system more responsive
        • Stops Arbitrary and unauthorized exercise of authority


  • Against Accountability points
        • Officers spend their time in maintaining records or answering RTIs etc
        • It makes them status quoist in their conduct in fear of public scrutiny.


To quote Amartya Sen – ” We don’t need just a democracy, we need accountable democracy.”


Quite often Accountability is misunderstood as Responsibility.

      • Responsibility is inner concept like your responsibility to do some work
      • Accountability is outer concept like your accountability of some work you have done.



Types of Accountability

There can be two type of Accountability in Governance

Vertical Accountability of government to persons outside government is ensured by

  • Elections
  • RTI
  • Media & Social Media
  • Citizens Charter
  • NGO & Pressure Groups
Horizontal Accountability of Public Institutions/ Servants to Government

External Accountability of Public Servant outside his wing

  • Accountability of Minister (Executive) to Parliament (Legislature)
  • Judiciary
  • CAG
  • CVC
  • NHRC
Internal Accountability of Public Servant inside his wing/department

  • Accountability to Superiors
  • Internal Audit
  • Grievance Redressal Mechanisms

Whenever we have to answer how to increase Accountability , we have to cover all these angles.


Steps to make  Accountability more effective in India

  • Strengthening RTI act and infrastructure
  • Protection of Whistleblowers through legislation.
  • Strong Lokpal Act
  • Social Audits by local communities, NGOs can enhance accountability in public service delivery, for instance in MGNREGA.
  • Using Information and Technology: Maintaining digital records
  • Encouraging Citizen’s initiative: e.g. Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
  • Promoting Competition and discouraging monopolistic attitude among public service sectors.
  • Need to lay down a statutory Code of Ethics for Civil Services (British Civil Services Code can act as a model.)


Side Topic : Lokpal

This is a Central Institution of Accountability in matters of financial impropriety and corruption .


Which bodies come under Lokpal

  • Members of Parliament
  • Ministers including PM (Central Executive)
  • Higher Bureaucracy (Lower Bureaucracy under CVC)
  • NGO falling under cases of FCRA


Various Challenges to accountability in India

  • Special Expertise  :   public administrators are experts in their specific area  => difficult for outside agency to surpass them in their areas of specialization & question them.
  • Massive Expansion of Bureaucracy:   difficult for the political executive to exercise effective control over them.
  • Lack of Coordination:  The number  of agencies  increased => CBI, CVC,  Lokayuktas, SVC etc without effective coordination among them.’
  • Excessive security : Article 311 of the Indian Constitution makes it almost impossible to remove a civil servant.
  • Employees’ unions: Tendency of employees’ unions to resist the managerial action against their members even when they have blatantly violated ethical norms.



Ethical Governance

Ethical governance is corruption free, moral and people centric Government


Philosophical Basis of Ethical Governance

People think that concept of Good Governance is modern concept. But they are wrong. Many times in past, scholars have conceptualised what is  good governance



  • Kautilya in his Arthashastra wrote , ” in the happiness of subjects lies the happiness of king and in the welfare of subjects lies the welfare of king. ” Hence , he has written about Citizen Centric Government .
  • Kautilya has also highlighted the corruption & given concept of Kantakshodhana ie king should purge out those elements strictly.


Gandhi’s Vision of Ramrajya

  • Vision of Ramrajya involves the governance based on Moral Principles .
  • Infact Gandhi has said that Government which is not working in people’s interest is morally corrupt.
  • Swaraj ie Self Rule is one of the pillars of his concept of Ramrajya or Good Governance .



  • He has divided the Government  into two parts
    • Perverted Government : Power is used in the interest of Ruling class
    • Legitimate Government : Power is used in Public Interest


8 Characters of Ethical Government  

Rule of Law

  • Rule of Law involves governance based upon rules and regulations
  • In modern times, these rules & regulations are codified in Constitution of country .


People’s Participation

  • Real democracy doesn’t just mean voting to elect government but participation of people in governance itself .
  • The mechanism of people’s participation in contemporary times are
Conventional Tools
  • Voting
  • Pressure Groups
New & Contemporary
  • Panchayati Raj Institutions & Gram Sabha
  • RTI
  • Social Auditing
  • Citizen Charter
  • E-Governance (C2G)
  • Social Media (, online petitions)


Consensus orientation

  • Ethical Governance is not based on Winner takes all approach .
  • Decisions in the government should be taken based on consensus


Equity and Inclusiveness

  • Distribution of resources  should be based on the principle of equity so that different sections of society receive these resources based on their need
  • Inclusiveness involves including weaker sections  in decision making (welfare principle)


Effective and Efficient

  • Effective government is one which achieves the target in stipulated time
  • Efficient government is one which deliver maximum with minimum resources



  • Discussed above



  • Literal meaning is openness
  • Tool of Transparency : RTI, E- Governance



  • Responsive government is one which positively responds to people’s demands, needs and aspirations in a timely manner




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