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The Journal of Public Accountability

Issue 2, February 2003

Part 1. Special Issues

Part 2. Articles

Part 1. Special Issues

Defending the Internet as Endangered Commons

A new global conflict is emerging among proponents of opposite views of the nature of systems, closed or open. The conflict flows from an epistemological shift that affects worldviews in general. Closed systems are mechanistic and are designed or authored from outside of themselves. Open systems are structured dynamically from within, through self-organization. They emerge from complexity. There is no authority that governs their structure. A critical battleground for this conflict is the question of Internet "regulation." In the sense that we have defined it here, that makes the conflict a clash of cultures.

CCA is particularly interested in social constructs that change our ideas about systems of governance affecting the fairness of the human condition. The primary goal of closed systems of governance is control or stability in the social order. But self-organizing systems are also a form, but a very different form, of governance. They sustain a dynamic equilibrium through interactions based on trust, reciprocity and cooperation. Therefore they are inherently fairer in the consequences of their actions. The primary goal of open systems of governance is learning. Since world level problems are complex, we all need learning far more than we need control.

The Internet is a set of technologies that express the cultural values and interests of the proponents of open systems. That is to say, it is the product of the worldview on the other side of the epistemological shift, not the cause of it. The primary purpose of the Internet should be understood as serving needs for learning, not for control. As of now, the outcome of the growing battle over regulating its use or affirming its purpose is uncertain.

If you seek to defend the Internet as an instrument of open systems for learning and you hear these phrases; intellectual property rights, information security, international policy framework for the Information Society, you are probably encountering proponents of the power of nation states as closed systems of governance. On the other hand, if you hear these phrases; open source, communication as public good, Internet code layer as commons, you are probably encountering proponents of the autonomy and responsibility of individuals to connect with each other, to self-organize and therefore learn, in open systems of interaction. .

Defending the consensus on standards and values that led to the Internet's existence in the first place is far more important than regulating the communications that it carries. The Internet is not "merely a tool" that can be adapted to serve the conventional purposes of governance. Because it represents a worldview expressed through technology, those purposes are already being altered by its use.

More than the "system" of international institutions, the Internet is the only effective means we have discovered, so far, to support the self-organization of response to large-scale complex problems. By surfacing multiple points of view about intentions and consequences in our local and global interactions, the Internet saves us from those arrogant voices that claim omniscient authority. Those voices imagine themselves to be outside of the systems they seek to govern when now we know that they are not. Defending the Internet can thus be expected to lead to greater fairness as the ultimate beneficial outcome of connectivity.

Garth Graham

(CCA will provide and update links to organizations acting to protect the Internet -- under construction).

Keeping the Meaning of Public Accountability Clear

The meaning of public accountability argued in the Citizen's Guide is based on the definition of accountability given in the 1975 Report of the Independent Review Committee on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (Wilson Committee):

"Accountability in its simplest terms is the obligation to answer for a responsibility that has been conferred."

The Committee's chairman, JRM Wilson, FCA, was intellectually rigorous and Canada's most respected chartered accountant. In the business world, for example, the whole point of more than 100 years of audited public financial reporting is that it isn't good enough to assign responsibility, hope people will accept it and be diligent, and then police conduct. And it is unrealistic to rely on self-regulation, however policed, without having those with the responsibilities themselves report on the discharge of their responsibilities and without having their reporting reliably and publicly validated. The Enrons showed this, but the US legislative and SEC responses have not included statutory public answering obligations (see the article on the SEC and US accounting profession in this Journal).

The problem is that writers have tended to attach "accountability" as a label for whatever they want to see people do or not do. The usefulness of the Wilson definition is that it distinguishes the answering obligation, which is a reporting obligation, from responsibility, which is the obligation to act. If responsibility or the acceptance of it is treated as synonymous with accountability, the emphasis will tend to be placed on people's responsibilities rather than their obligation to answer publicly, as a self-regulating influence.

Chapter 2 of the Citizen's Guide and this web site explains that without a clear public reporting requirement we won't get the reporting, and without the reporting we lose the self-regulating effect of accountable people in authority having to publicly state their intentions, reasons and performance and have their assertions publicly validated for their fairness and completeness (i.e., checked for lying, in the sense of any intentionally deceptive message that is stated). So here is a case where a difference in definition makes an important difference in whether citizens are likely to use the powerful lever of exacting validated answering for responsibilites.

Thus, to be useful in society, accountability must not mean taking action to do something, such as compliance with a directive, or the taking-on of responsibilities. But full and fair public answering can show that a responsibility has been genuinely taken on. Nor can accountability be defined as "a relationship where...", because a relationship is not an obligation. Talking about accountability as something other than a reporting and explaining obligation plays into the hands of authorities who wish to cloud their responsibilities and to avoid having to say publicly what they think their responsibilities are and whether they think they have met them.

A mid-1990s literature review of notions of accountability by the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation showed that people's definitions of accountability were all over the map. That is still the case.

As cited in the Citizen's Guide, UK public sector researchers Patricia Day and Rudolf Klein stated in 1987, in Accountabilities: Five Public Services:

"It is a tradition of political thought which sees the defining characteristic of democracy as stemming not merely from the election of those who are given delegated power to run society's affairs ... but from their continuing obligation to explain and justify their conduct in public."

University of Toronto professor Philip Stenning, editor of Accountability for Criminal Justice: Selected Essays (1995), states at the outset that accountability is the idea that "people, governments and business should be held publicly answerable." Stenning cites and supports the Concise Oxford Dictionary's definition of accountability as being liable or bound to give an account. But he notes that some scholars have taken accountability instead to mean the ability to give an account, which doesn't mean the obligation to report.

Another example is the web site of the Voluntary Sector Knowledge Network (www.vskn.ca). It states,as at March 2003:

"More and more these days nonprofit organizations are being asked to show that the work they do 'makes a difference' -- that they are achieving the mission for which they were created. When they do this, they are said to be accountable."

Apart from possible minor confusion from VSKN equating doing something with showing something, their notion gets it right: to "show" something will imply reporting something.

Not helpful is the 1999 Report of the Panel on Accountability and Governance in the Voluntary Sector (Broadbent report), which defined accountability as follows:

"Accountability is the requirement to explain and accept responsibility for carrying out an assigned mandate in light of agreed upon expectations."

The requirement to explain is accountability, but accepting responsibility has nothing conceptually to do with an answering obligation. Moreover, "assigned mandate" sounds as if it is directed to employee management. There is still the question of dealing with the public accountability of those overseeing the assigning and agreeing. A nonprofit organization board of directors and/or its members can be said to do the assigning, but who then has the management control responsibility (and the attaching public accountability for diligence in control) to see that the decided mandate will produce fairness in the organization's impact on citizens? That is the only problem with the 1975 Wilson definition: limiting answering to responsibilities "conferred" doesn't include accountability for people's actions affecting the public in important ways that lie outside what has been formally conferred. But Wilson was dealing with government-to-Parliament accountability based on statutes.

The Panel did not explain why it abandoned its earlier 1998 Discussion Paper definition of accountability (for which it had the Wilson definition) that stated:

"Accountability is the obligation to explain how a responsibility for an assigned mandate has been discharged".

The Panel's earlier definition did not muddle concepts.

University of Toronto professor Janice Gross Stein, in her 2001 Massey Lectures, "The Cult of Efficiency," uses the word "accountability" nearly a dozen times in the first 10 pages but did not define what she meant . And what one can infer as her meaning with each mention of "accountability" produces no consistent conceptual pattern. Yet one would think that the early training of professors would require them always to define their terms at the outset if they expect readers to read on.

And JRM Wilson would not have condoned the accommodation and lack of rigour in the definition of accountability in the public sector offered by the Auditor General of Canada to the Canadian Parliament in December 2002, in the "Main points" section of a 20-page report on accountability. The Auditor General is the intellectual bodyguard for Parliament in matters of accountability:

"Accountability is a relationship based on obligations to demonstrate, review, and take responsibility for performance, both the results achieved in light of agreed expectations and the means used"

The assertion that accountability is a "relationship based on" X, Y and Z appears at odds with the assertion by Day and Klein and Wilson that accountability is an obligation to answer. Saying that something is a relationship doesn't say what it actually is, although text following the definition talks about reporting performance. The text of the AG's report cannot be expected to imply a definition if the formal asserted definition is not rigorous. (This is like an auditor describing the scope of an audit as, "We looked at..." rather than saying what the auditor actually did). There seems to be a word or words missing from the Auditor General's definition, but nowhere in the definition does there appear to be a statement clear enough to teach members of Parliament what accountability really is and guide them in installing adequate answering government obligations and exacting the needed answering.

In Section 9.12 of the report the Auditor General asserts: "Accountability is not a simple concept." In fact, the concept is simple, as the Day-Klein-Wilson definition suggests, and as the Citizen's Guide attempts to demonstrate. If anything is complicated, it is the task of getting citizens and elected representatives to grasp the power of holding fairly to account to bring about fairness, and to exact adequate answering from authorities -- to have them "explain and justify their conduct in public." Rather than being titled, "Modernizing Accountability in the Public Sector," (which suggests that there has been meaningful accountability but it just needs "modernizing"), the study would have been better scoped as, "Installing Adequate Answering By the Government of Canada."

In the media, there are dozens of examples of writers implying or stating what accountability is and being unhelpful. The result is a citizenry thus far being given no clear and useful definition of public accountability. Hence the Guide and this web site. The result of laying fog over the concept of accountability is citizens not knowing how to hold to account, and the result of that is continuing needless harm in society.

Part 2. Articles

The first article for this second edition of the Journal deals with public financial reporting by corporations and external auditors. It is is a July 2002 set of proposals by CCA Convenors Dr. Ernest Pavlock and Henry McCandless for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Following the Enron and WorldCom disgraces, the Commission invited views from the public on what should be done to prevent future similar occurrences. Dr. Pavlock also sent the CCA proposals to Senator Paul Sarbanes, Congressman Michael Oxley and congressional leaders. The Pavlock-McCandless proposals are not likely to be taken up by the SEC commissioners or congressional oversight bodies because they would disturb comfort zones. They are unprecedented but are in no way naive.

The CCA proposals can be seen on the SEC's web site at http://www.sec.gov/rules/proposed/s72402/epavlock.htm




The second article is a CCA convenor's recommendation to activist organizations for increasing their effectiveness.

The following are the speaking notes of Henry McCandless for an October 2002 workshop of the national "Escalating Peace" conference on Saltspring Island, BC, organized by three Canadian women's activist organizations: Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW), Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA), and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

The workshop title was "Holding Decision-Makers to Account for Peace and Democracy: Working Smarter, Not Harder." The message is that activist organizations should add "disclosure activism" to their missions.

Public Accountability and Disclosure Activism

Workshop notes for the Escalating Peace conference,
Ganges, Saltspring Island, BC, 5 October 2002
Henry E. McCandless, Citizens' Circle for Accountability

I. Overview of Public Accountability

The start of any discussion or inquiry is to know what's going on. So what is the common denominator in all the horror stories in society that roll off the assembly lines? Identifiable people in positions of authority have identifiable responsibilities that they don't carry out. One of the reasons that they don't do their duty is that they don't have to answer to anyone for how they carry out their responsibilities. You won't find this obligation to answer in Canadian laws, which simply set out people's powers and duties and sometimes sanctions.

By "authorities" I mean mainly ministers of the Crown and governing boards of all kinds, such as corporate boards of directors. Authorities also include municipal councils and Aboriginal band councils. We can call these people the directing minds for intentions affecting their publics.

Public accountability is a regulating mechanism in society for the regular operation of society. Special inquiries and audits are needed when major harm is done.

The concept. Whenever someone in power or an authoritative body intends something that affects others in important ways, they have an obligation in fairness to tell those other people what they intend and also why they intend it, so that those who would be significantly affected are reasonably informed and have a chance to react.

Thus, wherever there is significant responsibility there is accountability. Whoever is the ultimately responsible directing mind is also ultimately accountable.

So we can say that public accountability means the obligation to answer publicly for the discharge of responsibilities that affect the public in important ways. Responsibility -- the obligation to act -- is a related but separate obligation.

Holding to account means exacting the public answering needed for citizens to have, as George Washington put it in 1796, "a right understanding of matters." It also means validating important answering given.

The purpose of exacting public answering and validating it is to give citizens the information they need to better predict what authorities will do, and therefore to set levels of trust in authorities that are valid. When we don't trust people in authority, society doesn't work properly. And if we blindly trust, through denial or undue deference, we are patsies.

I see activists and activist organizations as central to holding to account -- in exacting adequate public answering on behalf of citizens at large. It isn't difficult: it's just a matter of applying logic and using a simple but rigorous approach.

Accountability doesn't mean simply answering after the fact, as in corporations' financial statements published after the year-end. The most important public answering is answering before the fact -- authorities explaining their intentions and their reasoning for them.

Answering before the fact increases the likelihood of fairness in authorities' intentions and actions:

First, it exerts a self-regulating influence, so long as the most important answering is audited for its fairness and completeness. When made to answer publicly, authorities won't want to say something that makes them look foolish, and if they lie about their intentions and reasoning they can be publicly exposed as liars by knowledgeable groups and organizations.

Our civic failure is that we have simply never asked authorities to account. And since the answering requirement is only for explanation and doesn't tell people how to do their jobs, it's an unassailable requirement in a democracy. As British public service researchers Day and Klein put it in 1987,

"It is a tradition of political thought which sees the defining characteristic of democracy as stemming not merely from the election of those who are given delegated power to run society's affairs ... but from their continuing obligation to explain and justify their conduct in public,

Secondly, when intentions and reasoning are reasonably known, it allows citizens to act, and to act fairly. They can commend what is proposed, or act to alter it or halt it.

My point about public accountability and activism is that citizens can act at two stages of goings-on, not just one. Beliefs lead to attitudes, which lead to intentions, which lead to behaviours. So, as well as acting at the stage of authorities carrying out intentions -- the usual activist intervention stage -- we can act at the stage before that -- the intentions stage.

In the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, whose business is serving accountability relationships, I had been used to after-the-fact examination of government departments. So in 1989 I was struck by the point made by Dr. Ursula Franklin in her Massey Lectures. It became the basis for my work on public accountability:

"Much clarification can be gained by focusing on language as an expression of values and priorities. Whenever someone talks to you about the benefits and costs of a particular project, don't ask "What benefits?" ask "Whose benefits, and whose costs?"

Thus, at the intentions stage, we have to make authorities state their intentions for outcomes for different people and their reasoning for their intentions, and then validate what they say. But we must get their explanations on paper, so we can assess them accurately.

If people in authority won't answer, it is legitimate to hold their intentions suspect.

At the conduct stage, if authorities' intentions have persisted because of their power, it's time to fight at the barricades. But we should hold to account first, so that we

  • make use of the self-regulating influence of having to answer publicly
  • get a better understanding of authorities' intentions, and
  • publicly expose authorities for obstruction of social justice and abuse of power if they refuse to account to a reasonable standard of answering.

Fighting at the barricades may halt authorities' actions for a time, but it won't alter their agendas -- only their strategies and tactics.

For example, the transnational corporations and their "bought" executive governments will come back with a clone of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). So this time activist groups should collaborate to exact the public answering from ministers and those drafting such documents that explains, for what is proposed, who would gain, how, and why they should, and who would bear what costs and risks, and why they should -- both in the short and longer term.

Why don't we have adequate public answering for responsibilities?

First, it's not in the law. We didn't install the public answering requirement in Magna Carta, and we haven't since. Our laws are full of people's powers and duties, but with some exceptions they are silent on the answering requirement, as if government opposition parties in the legislatures suffice in exacting the needed answering at all levels. And of course they don't.

We need our legislators to put public answering into the law, but

  • they can be expected to be leery of accountability ultimately applying to themselves,
  • they go along with their legislative assembly rituals as the means of holding to account, and
  • when in government majorities they are obedient to their ministers, who show no evidence of willingness to account to a reasonable standard.

Secondly, Canadian citizens have been unduly deferential to people in authority, and those who haven't been have gone straight to the fighting stage of lobbying, awareness-building and so on.

In fact it may be less stressful for many to hit the streets in a placard parade than make an appointment with an elected representative, sit down across the desk from that person eyeball to eyeball, ask for an accounting of the person for his or her intentions, reasons and intended performance standards, and have ready the right second questions in response to fog given as answering.

Thirdly, at the level of government ministers and their departments as a whole, as opposed to citizens holding to account individual elected representatives, it is the activist organizations with powerful podiums who can demand adequate answering on behalf of citizens. But thus far they haven't.

The large organizations like Greenpeace, Council of Canadians and Sierra Club may not yet have considered a holding to account thrust in their strategies, or they may be content with doing what they currently do and see no advantage or visibility for themselves in forcing out regular and adequate government and corporate public answering for intentions. I view auditing the fairness and completeness of authorities' public answering as a challenging adventure. The large activist organizations may see it as dull.

But we ultimately come to the observation of the cartoon character Pogo: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." In a TV interview, Ralph Nader in my view lapsed into euphemism when he framed the issue of loss of public control as, "Americans seem to have given up on themselves."

Activists can only lead the horse to water, but we have yet to see public reaction to a situation where activists say publicly to authorities, "You agreed that you had the obligation to account publicly, but what you said are lies, and here's why they are." Lying isn't as tough to show as we might think if you accept Sissela Bok's 1978 definition of a lie as "any intentionally deceptive message that is stated." When forced to face public lying publicly exposed as such, citizens may finally stop being patsies and say, "This won't do."

II. Disclosure Activism

Disclosure activism is activism that exacts adequate public disclosure from authorities.

As I see it, the basic question for activists wishing to alter future probabilities is, how do we do it more successfully?

You first have to know what's going on, whether it's ozone depletion, war, arms sales, dysfunctional trade agreements or a general increase in arrogance in people in authority, worsened by the Pogo syndrome. To commend, alter or stop an intention you have to know what people in authority intend.

So how well do we know what authorities intend -- what their real agendas are? We don't know with assurance, because they don't tell us. So we infer their intentions, such as in the OECD's MAI. But then the authorities say, "You're only guessing."

I'm not aware of any organization with a powerful podium saying to ministers of the Crown and specific corporate boards,

"Wait a minute. In a democracy, you surely have the obligation in fairness to disclose your intentions and publicly explain your reasoning, to a reasonable standard of answering, so citizens can assess the fairness of your intentions and have your assertions challenged by those who know the issues. Will you give this public answering?"

Authorities aren't dumb. They will see the accountability disclosure net descending over them if they answer publicly, because they will either have to say something that is apparently praiseworthy and also stands the light of day , or lie. Lori Wallach of Public Citizen used the term "Dracula Test" for the MAI -- that is, full and fair exposure would cause the MAI intentions to self-destruct.

Authorities may answer, while trying to deceive in their answering. But if they try to deceive, they can be publicly exposed as liars by public validation of the fairness and completeness of what they say.

So how would authorities, having a clear obligation to account, tend to respond?

1. Authorities can simply ignore the demand for answering. They will count on activists quickly reverting from holding to account to their normal practice of public awareness-building, influencing public opinion and hitting the streets. But this activist response is the building of restraining forces to combat authorities' driving forces. It doesn't force reduction of the driving forces: it doesn't cause authorities to alter their unexposed agenda. Thus relentless powerful driving forces may prevail.

2. Authorities can simply decree:

"You haven't been paying attention. Our position has been well debated" or
"Two-tier medical care will solve our health care problems" or
"Free trade agreements best produce economic well-being in all countries"

They will count on deferential citizens not demanding evidence but denying reality, like Pogo's citizens, and saying to themselves, "the people we put in top authority surely know what they are doing, and in any case activists just seem to rant."

3. If these first two responses won't do the trick, authorities can try the deceptive answering approach. They will assume that citizens will continue to be patsies, and that no knowledgeable organization with a powerful podium will invest the time in auditing what they say and getting the public to see and not countenance the deception as deception.

What's missing from people's attempts to bring about fairness is the application of simple logic under the precautionary principle applied to the intentions of people in authority.

It is to have the accountable themselves publicly justify their intentions or show how someone else's proposal for fairness is wrong. Authorities duck their answering obligation through what I call "reverse onus" -- making citizens prove that what authorities intend will lead to harm. If you think about it, authorities practice the opposite of the precautionary principle. Validating public answering given helps cause harmful intentions to self-destruct.

To hold to account, activist organizations can use a simple yet rigorous process to force authorities to publicly disclose their real intentions and why they have those intentions:

Step 1

As a group, identify the responsibilities of greatest concern and who in common sense has those responsibilities. This can be done around a kitchen table.

Responsibilities that are fairly those of our governments lie with identifiable ministers. They can't pass them off to "agencies". Responsibilities of corporations lie not with CEOs, but with the boards of directors. Since ultimate responsibilities lie with those we can call the directing minds, it is they who have to be identified.

The process of identifying responsibilities, as if drafting a job description, involves reasonable understanding of factors such as the extent to which upholding the precautionary principle is part of a responsibility, and having a fairly good idea of the nature of external constraints that those with responsibilities can or cannot control. The responsibilities in question and those who have them should be sensibly ranked.

Step 2:

Identify reasonable performance standards for the persons with the responsibilities.

Discharging a particular responsibility will require certain key actions that can be called critical success factors, such as the accountable person reasonably informing himself or herself to carry out their responsibilities diligently. Examples of self-informing by directing minds include a minister knowing his or statutory duties, and ensuring genuine public consultation. Another important performance standard is effective management control -- meaning that those with the responsibilities have a duty to engage the processes and structures that ensure that what should happen does, and what should not happen doesn't happen.

Step 3. (Still at the kitchen table)

For the responsibilities of greatest concern, set down the public answering that you think citizens have the right to be given by the identified directing minds.

For example, those having the responsibilities have a fairness obligation to tell the public:

  • what they see as their legal and statutory responsibilities
  • for the specific responsibilities, what they intend, for whom; who would benefit, and how; who would bear what costs and risks; and why they think their intentions are fair
  • what their own performance standards are for their responsibilities
  • the extent to which they think they are meeting their own performance standards
  • what they think the outcomes have been for people affected by their actions
  • what they learned from their effort and how they applied their learning

Immediately, authorities will say that this is far too much to expect. The response is that any authority concerned with doing their job properly has to have this information already. And what they know, they can report. It is as simple as that.

Step 4:

Switch from supplication ("We urge you to...") to reasonable expectation. Write "We think it reasonable to expect..." letters to the directing minds having the responsibilities you have identified.

From the first three steps, set out what you see as their most important responsibilities and key performance standards for the issues of concern, and the public answering for their responsibilities that you think citizens have the right to be given.

Then ask them to tell you whether your view of their responsibilities, performance standards and public accountability is reasonable and, if they think it isn't, to tell you what they see as their responsibilities, performance standards and public answering obligations.

Step 5.

Report publicly.

If you get fog as an answer from Step 4, publicize both your letter and the authorities' response, showing why the response is fog so citizens can see the evasion. If you get no answer, publicize your letter and tell citizens you were refused a response and why your request for response is reasonable, e.g.,

"In a democracy, citizens need reasonable information to make the decisions they have to make as citizens. We therefore think it reasonable that Minister X (or governing body Y) respond to our legitimate public answering request. Moreover, since Minister X (or governing body Y) has to have this information in any case to do their job properly, what they know, they can report."

A refusal to answer or a fog response can be deemed arrogance, and can be publicly labelled as such and a danger.

Seemingly diligent responses need to be carefully examined -- audited for their fairness and completeness -- while bearing in mind that the answering expectation is new and that accountable people aren't used to answering for more than financial results. Responses that pass citizen inspection should be publicized, because accountable people will start to adopt what become evident as "best practices."

Successive public challenge rounds can be expected to cause changes in "equity statements" of intentions (Step 3), eventually producing a more accurate picture of who intends what for whom, and why. Then the public can judge the fairness of authorities' intentions for themselves. But the public can't judge what isn't disclosed and validated.

If authorities won't answer, even after their refusal is publicized, activist organizations are free to report to the public what they are forced to infer as the authorities' responsibilities, intentions, reasoning and performance in their responsibilities. The activists' reports will likely prevail in the public mind. We can call these citizen audit reports.

And here we come to the matter of "climate of opinion." If enough activist organizations cohesively take these steps and publicize refusals to answer and foggy responses from those with the responsibilities, and report their own audit conclusions (so long as they have been fair in their assessments), the general public will start to notice, not just the apparent 30% of the population that gets involved in some way in civic or civil society matters.

Given public attention, a climate of opinion will form that will force public answering. Legislators will have to enact public accountability laws that legislate the obligation to account and the minimum answering standards to be met. Once the answering obligation is in the law, auditors general in the legislatures and the Connie Fogals in the courts can deal with non-compliance with the disclosure laws. Breaking a law is serious.

This will require the cooperation of journalists to publicize the patterns of answering from authorities that the activist organizations supply to the media. But if journalists show no interest, activists can ask the Canadian Association of Journalists to publicly account for its stance on something so basic to achieving an informed citizenry.

The reason I think that holding publicly to account will help cause self-destruction of intentions against the public interest is that, first, authorities have never been asked to account. Therefore they have no experience in stonewalling rigorous and legitimate answering demands. Secondly, the obligation to publicly account, whether in a democracy or any other system, is unassailable.

But we must ultimately return to the crux -- the Pogo issue. Will citizens simply yawn at the proposition that authorities should answer adequately, even if shown what it can accomplish? Would citizens support activists working to exact answering as well as sounding alarms? And would citizens still yawn if actually given better disclosure of authorities' intentions and reasoning? Is public accountability something that can only be brought about by teaching it in the schools and waiting for new generations to install it, while enduring the needless harm in the world that will happen in the meantime?

My own prediction is that if activist organizations would get together worldwide and do an effective job in holding to account for the responsibilities involved in major safety, health, social justice and environmental issues, citizens across the planet would grasp and respect its usefulness and demand it. When that happens, those elected representatives and governing bodies who publicly account to a reasonable standard will start experiencing longer tenure in office, while those who won't account won't last in office.