Accountability Public Servants [UPSC]

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 10, 2022, 8:16

Accountability is the obligation of civil servants to be held answerable for their behaviour and actions. This comes into play due to an ethical need or out of a legal requirement. The idea behind this concept 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. It defines the relationship between civil servants and the people.

Accountability is one of the important pillars of good governance as it ensures

  • Answerability- to seek justification of the actions and decisions from those whom 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.

Accountability of Public Servants to the Government

The first and foremost duty of Civil Servants is to be accountable to the government to which they have sworn. Civil officers should be apolitical and adopt a professional approach.

Civil servants are accountable for all their actions to the government and the legislature. 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 have to be responsive to public urgencies and work according to their need rather than their convenience. Public servants 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 Accountability in Democracy

  • The accountability of public servants ensures that the rules of law mandated by the Constitution and government are well respected.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.

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.

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FAQs on Accountability of Public Servants

Q.1. What are the tools of Accountability?

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

Q.2. Can Accountability of public servants ensure ethical governance?

Accountability is an important pillar of ethical governance. It is the obligation of officers to account for their activities. Accountability also promotes other important qualities like transparency, objectivity, integrity and participation of masses in the system.

Q.3. How are civil servants Held Accountable?

The federal system of government comes into play in terms of checking the accountability of public servants. Officers are held accountable by the ministers. On the other hand, ministers are responsible for exercising power in the State. The citizens hold officers accountable through various mechanisms like RTI, E-Governance portals, etc.

Q.4. What are the different types of Accountability?

  • 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, policymaking, etc.
  • Diagonal accountability: Citizens are directly engaged with horizontal accountability. An example is public interest litigation (PIL).