Coherent and cohesive action requires a common understanding
of basic terms.
For every important responsibility there is accountability. Public
accountability is the obligation to answer publicly, fully and
fairly, for the discharge of responsibilities that affect the
public in important ways. Responsibility is the obligation to
act, which is obviously related to accountability, but it is conceptually
different from accountability, the obligation to answer. While
the answering obligation attaches to all significant responsibilities,
the key is getting the answering. The answering is for intentions
as well as results. When responsibilities affect the public in
important ways, the decision-makers' answering must be public.
And it is the governing bodies of organizations, not employee
CEOs and managers, who have the obligation to account to the public.
Holding to account is the process of exacting adequate answering,
at the time it is needed. Answering will probably have to be forced
until authorities get used to the idea of answering adequately.
Adequate answering means fair and complete reporting on the discharge
of responsibilities, where "fair and complete" means
meeting agreed reasonable standards of answering, such as those
embodied in Equity Statements.
Holding to account also includes validating the answering whenever
this is prudent under the precautionary principle. Validation
of the answering means independent assessment (audit) of its fairness
and completeness by people who can competently assess it.
But holding fairly to account means, as well, using fairly and
sensibly answering that is given in good faith .