Accountability Public Servants

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Sep 16, 2022, 8:15

Accountability is a civil servant's obligation to be answerable for their behavior and actions. This comes into play due to an ethical need or a legal requirement. The idea behind the concept of public accountability is very rational; if one is given the authority to perform an action that has an effect on others, they must be held accountable for the impact they cause through their actions. Accountability defines the relationship between civil servants and the people and ensures the following:

  • Answerability - to seek justification of the actions and decisions of those they impact.
  • Enforceability - to impose penalties if the justification of actions is not at par.
  • Responsiveness - to check the extent to which the actions of public servants are met in response to the needs of the people.

Who are the Public Servants?

Public servants are people employed in any public body in India who develop and supervise public services, programs, and events. They are also involved in policy-making, conducting and supervising public examinations, etc. Public servants work for the elected government and do not work for their own political interests.

Public Accountability

Every person working in the public sector must adhere to their public accountability. In a democracy, this form of accountability refers to the relationship between the government and the general public. Since the legislature, judiciary, and all other forms of public service are elected by the people in a democracy, public servants are accountable for their actions to the general public.

Doctrine of Public Accountability

No matter what their post is, every person working in the public sector in India has to follow the doctrine of public accountability. Know more about this doctrine in the points given below:

  • This doctrine keeps a check on the use or misuse of power by public servants.
  • The doctrine of public accountability states that administrative power is a form of public trust placed in the hands of the power holder.
  • Therefore, the power holder must be accountable to the general public.

Types of Public Accountability

Public accountability can take many forms in a country like India. It can be classified into four main types. Here is the information about the different types of accountability in public administration:

  • Horizontal accountability: This refers to the accountability enforced by institutions that are part of the government, legislative, and judiciary. Some examples are control of the executive by the legislature, control of the legislature and executive by the judiciary, CAG audits, etc.
  • Vertical accountability: The electoral process is a result of vertical accountability as, through this, citizens and civil society organizations own the right to hold the administration accountable. This can be through lobbying, social audit participation in budgeting, policy-making, etc.
  • Diagonal accountability: Citizens are directly engaged with horizontal accountability. An example is public interest litigation (PIL).

Accountability of Public Servants to the Government

Civil Servants' first and foremost duty is to be accountable to the government they have sworn to. These officers should be apolitical and adopt a professional approach. Since these officers are public servants, they are accountable to the government and the legislature for all their actions. The government and appointed ministers lay regulations and policies in the public interest, and civil servants implement their decisions accordingly.

Accountability of Public Servants to the Citizens

Public servants work closely with society. They must be responsive to public urgencies and work according to their needs rather than their convenience. Public servants in India cannot make exceptions or be partial in rendering their services. The equality in officials' actions will be established when they become aware of and accepted by the wide diversity of the Indian public.

Importance of Public Accountability in Democracy

In democratic countries, public accountability is a vital concept. In these countries, the leaders are elected by the people and for the people. Therefore the public servants also work for the people. Accountability should not be seen as a stick to hit the authorities with but as a tool to improve the government.

It discourages corruption, biases, and ulterior intentions, which can be detrimental to the development of a state in the long run. To know more about the importance of accountability in a democracy, read the points given below:

  • It confirms the commitment to promises and citizens' charters made by assigned officials.
  • It gives citizens the right to seek answers from public servants and ensures their development.
  • The accountability of public servants ensures that the rules of law mandated by the Constitution and government are well respected.
  • It keeps the officials under surveillance to reduce corruption and strengthens the bond between the governors and the governed.
  • It avoids the blame game among parties and reduces the vagueness in their actions.

To summarise, the accountability of public servants is an indispensable part of the Civil Service and its administration. It is a much-needed ingredient for the ethically-sound, good governance of a democratic state.

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FAQs on Accountability of Public Servants

Q.1. What is meant by the accountability of public servants in administrative law?

Accountability of public servants refers to the burden of being answerable to the general public for your actions as a public worker. People who work in the public service sector in India must be held accountable for their actions.

Q2. What are the tools of public accountability in India?

In India, public servants are accountable to the public for their actions. Here are some tools that are used to track public accountability in the country:

  • Right to Information or RTI
  • Mandatory social auditing
  • E-Governance
  • Parliamentary review committee
  • Citizen's Charter
  • Right to Public Service Legislation

Q.3. What are the different types of accountability in public administration?

Public accountability can be classified into four main types. Find the different types of accountability in public administration below:

  • Horizontal accountability
  • Vertical accountability
  • Diagonal accountability

Q4. Who are the public servants?

Public servants are people employed in the public sector in a country. In a democracy, these people are part of people who work directly for the interests of the government. Public servants are accountable to the public for their actions.