You are on page 1of 6


In Bangladesh the assumption in the context of democracy, is that the civil
servants work for the people. But the problem of locating accountability
therefore becomes acute because of the nature of the job performed and
power exercised by the civil servants. Today they are no longer confined to the
job of implementing the policies and executing the laws framed by the
legislature. Now they consciously make laws and even adjudicate laws. In fact
the laws made by the legislature lay down only the broad objectives, and the
task of providing the details of making rules, regulations and bye-laws for
filling up the gaps left in the legislation, is given to the administrators in order
to facilitate the process of executing the laws. Thus, “the problem of keeping
watch over the execution of laws has today grown into the more complex task
of exercising control over policy formulation and policy implementation. The
meaning of the concept of administrative accountability has, therefore, been
expanded and consequently its dimensions have increased.” These days various
expressions like responsiveness, responsibility, accountability and control are
used to ensure the subservience of public servants.

The word Responsiveness means “the state of being responsive” i.e.
answering or replying. In Bangladesh the citizens expect civil servants to be
responsive to their requests and demands. A citizen who asks something of a
government has the right to expect a response and to be treated as a
legitimate source of demands. In fact responsiveness is a procedural
requirement for good government.

The other word Responsibility implies that the civil servants will adhere to
the explicit and implicit values of proper administration and policy. Responsible
public servants know the law and have convictions about the proper
administration of their programmes. Expertise and law thus become central to
the working of civil service.

Administrative accountability generally means making the civil servants
answerable for their actions. Administrative accountability has to be
understood in relation to making of public policies and their implementation. It
means accountability of those administrators who in some ways or the other
contribute to the decision making process. And this accountability is to the
political system as a whole. In general, the public officials are found to be
guilty of non-feasance, malfeasance and overfeasance.

-Nonfeasance means that civil servants have not done what law or custom
requires them to do owing to laziness, ignorance or want of care for their
charges or corrupt influence.

-Malfeasance means that a duty is carried out with waste and damage because
of ignorance, negligence and technical incompetence.

-Overfeasance occurs when a duty is undertaken beyond what law and custom
oblige empower---it may occur out of dictatorial temper, vanity or genuine
public spirited zeal.

The public officials must be held accountable for any of these three activities.


It is necessary and essential in the interest of democracy as well as efficiency
and effectiveness that good and proper tools or controls to check civil servants
must be devised, generally controls are of two types – external and
internal. According to Prof. Finer, the best way to enforce accountability is to
develop institutions that vigorously monitor the actions of public bureaucracy
and punish those guilty of maladministration. In the absence of other controls,
such as profit motive, policy makers must monitor the performance of public
administrators via formal mechanisms.3

Among the two controls executives responsibility to the legislature, legislative
surveillance, judicial review, audit system, financial advisory system in
ministries, judicial system, ombudsman etc. are examples of external formal
controls. The internal controls of formal type are secured through
organizational devices like hierarchy supervision, control, span of control, unity
of command, inspection, tours etc. These are in practice, reinforced and
supplemented by informal external devices such as mass media, political
parties, interest groups, political and electoral process, Comptroller and
Auditor General (CAG) etc. existing in the society. Beside this on the other
hand, Carl Friedrich opines that inculcation of appropriate values among
administrators serves as the major check on the bureaucracy.

Forms of accountability : Accountability although has many facets
but they are inter-related. It may be formal i.e. institutionalized or informal
i.e. democratic and ethical. Accountability may also take the forms like
political accountability, administrative accountability, legislative
accountability, judicial accountability etc.

Ways to ensure accountability : In addition to the formal
structures and informal modes prevalent in different nations to enforce

accountability in public service, a few more are suggested by scholars. Some of
them are as follows :

1. Representative Bureaucracy : In order to ensure that
administrators remain responsive to the needs of the people, some scholars
have pointed to the potential importance of representative bureaucracy. In fact
this view holds that democracy will be served if bureaucrats mirror certain key
characteristics of society. This view was first developed by Kingsley which
grew out of recognition of the inadequacy of the traditional legal institutional
controls for insuring administrative accountability in a modern state.

2. Positive Content : Administrative accountability must be imparted
positive content. In Bangladesh at present accountability is devalued. It must
become sensitive to reward and punishment and must not remain one-sided as
it is now.

3. Administrative reforms : Administrative accountability is
performance and efficiency based and result oriented, so in a responsible
system of government rules and procedures must be simplified to enable public
servants to avoid delays caused by unnecessary procedures. Thus delegation,
decentralization, devolution and deconcentration are vital to accountability. So
is the need for reform in personnel administration, especially training,
placement, promotion, performance appraisal etc. Infact administrative reform
is among the pre-requisites to a system of effective accountability.

4. Innovative Practices : Today innovative practices like sun-set
legislation, freedom of Information Act, Citizens Charter etc. should be
adopted to enhance accountability. In brief the concept of sun-set legislation
implies that rules and regulations should be made for limited periods, and after
the expiry of that period the laws or rules should cease to operate unless
renewed. This will also necessitate review of rules and regulations periodically
to check their continued validity. Accountability demands openness in the
conduct of public business. The citizen charters are not expounding new legal
rights or obligations but rather stipulating existing rights and detailing good
practice, which exists in some cases and should, in the government’s view be
the norm.

5. Public Participation : The direct involvement of public in the
administrative process constitutes one of the major efforts to enforce
administrative accountability. Generally in developing countries like Bangladesh
public participation consists of three ways that is :
(a) Consultation throughout the planning process,
(b) Public representation on decision-making boards; and
(c) Community control over funds and expenditure.

However, it would fail to ensure administrative accountability unless such
participation educates the citizens and be informed about the broader socio-
economic characteristics of the society itself. The idea of public participation
is to expand the democratic basis of administrative action. Therefore the
desire for accountability must be weighed against responsiveness and the
ability to achieve policy ends efficiently and effectively.


Control over public administration is an essential feature of accountable and
responsible administration. Lord Acton’s insightful remark “Power corrupts and
absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely” appears to have universal validity.
Now to check it and make it accountable, certain safeguards are needed to
make the administration accountable to the people through some specific
devices and methods. Here in brief we shall discuss some of the methods of
accountability as follows :

(1) Legislative accountability : The Legislature or Parliament
plays an important role in making administration accountable. In
parliamentary countries of which India is one, the executive is responsible
to the legislature. It can hold office only so long as it enjoys the confidence,
i.e., the majority support of the legislature. There are several means
through which legislature exercises control over public administration.
Some of the important means of this method are such as questions,
discussions and debates, motions and resolutions on specific administrative
actions. There are financial control through budget and parliamentary

(2) Executive accountability : Executive control is an internal
control over administration exercised either by the superior over the
subordinate within the chain of administrative hierarchy or by other parallel
agencies in the executive branch of the government. Administrative structure is
hierarchical in nature and so one level controls the other and none is outside
the chain of command.

The executive accountability and control is exercised in many ways. Most of
them are formal provided by the laws of the country but some of them are
informal depending upon the good sense of the civil servants. The method of
internal control is different such as Political or Ministerial control is the
cardinal principle of Parliamentary democracy. There are number of techniques
and devices such as inspection, supervision, reports etc. through which the
head quarters administration controls the field agencies.

(3) Electorate accountability : As we all know that every
popular government is ultimately responsible to the people or, to be more
precise, the electorate which by its votes can make and unmake it. Apart
from the general mass of voters, the various organized interests like
industrialists, associations, religious groups etc. constantly exert pressure
on government and administration to mould their policies and acts in their
favour. Thus, in those countries where institutions of direct democracy
exist, popular control manifests itself directly through initiative,
referendum direct elections of officials, and recall.

(4) Professional bodies accountability : In every country
officials of professional categories such as doctors, engineers, lawyers,
teachers, computer analysts etc. are also responsible to their professional
bodies like the bar councils or medical councils for maintaining the minimum
standards of these professions. And if they are guilty of unprofessional conduct,
even their names may be removed by these professional bodies from their
approved lists or register, thus disqualifying them (persons) from engaging in
that profession any longer.

(5) Judicial accountability : In a democratic country, the judicial
accountability through Judiciary restricts the discretion and arbitrariness of
both the executive and administrative agencies; safe guards of rights and
liberty of the citizens; helps in redressal of the grievances of the citizens;
curbs corruption in government and administration and can declare ultra-virus
the acts of the government and administration is case they exceed their
jurisdiction. So, if some administrative action causes loss to the citizen, he
may knock at the door of the Judiciary for redressal of his grievances. Finally,
administration is subject to judicial control exercised by the Courts. Looked at
from the point of view of the citizens whose liberties and rights they are
intended to protect, the controls exercised by the courts are called judicial
remedies for the citizens against official excesses or abuse of power, are the
two faces of the same coin.

(6) Ombudsman accountability :
As a good government must provide a citizen an opportunity of seeking redress
from arbitrary actions of civil servants, to look into the problems of individual
citizens who feel aggrieved by the decisions of civil servants.

(7) Political Parties, Interest Groups, Press and Public

In the Parliamentary democracy, political parties and interest groups too play
an important role in expressing public opinion and they check the arbitrary use
of powers and actions of the executive along with administrative executive.
Press also plays an important role to enforce administrative accountability
through editorials, news regarding administrative irregularities,
mismanagement, inefficiency, delays and corrupt practices of the civil
servants. Even public get their grievances ventilated through columns of