The Concept of Accountability:
Implications for Urban Governance and Management

ccountability calls for a simplified structure that avoids duplication and achieves greater impact; empowered and responsible staff managers; a leaner and more efficient local government that fosters management excellence and is accountable for achieving results. Accountability requires that one group or individual provides a professional or financial account (or justification) of it activities to another stakeholding group or individual. It presupposes that an organisation or institution has a clear policy on who is accountable to who and for what. It involves the expectation that the accountable group will be willing to accept advice or criticism and to modify its practices in the light of that advice and criticism.

Accountability means empowered and responsible staff and managers who have/can:
  • have more authority and responsibility for decision-making
  • can improve delivery of the city's aims and objectives
  • can improve management of human and financial resources
Charactertistics of accountability:
  • Accountability is personal: authority can only be delegated to one person.
  • Accountability is vertical: from top to bottom, resposibilities and authority is delegated from supervisor to subordinate (supervisor holds subordinate accountable)
  • Accountability is neutral: It is neither a positive nor a negative concept. Excellent results are recognised , but failure may involve swanctions, including the withdrawl or modifications of working systems.
The Four Principles of Accountability:
  • Specify responsibility and authority
  • Provide guidance and support
  • Monitor and assess excerise of responsibility and authority
  • Take appropriate action
Existing Mechanisms:
  • Documents - legal instruments, policies, mandates, values, leislative provisions, rules and regulations.
  • Processes - the way work is done, disbursement and deployment of resources and accounting
  • Bodies - internal and external, that oversee and investigate
  • Policies - goal setting, work planning and performance reporting
  • Justice system - appeal for redress etc.
Organization-wide Accountability Mechanisms
  • Programme management planning and review
  • Compliance monitoring of resources management
  • Accountability panel
Programme Management planning and review
  • Enhancement of the performance appraisal system for urban managers
  • urban managers reporting directly to Mayors
  • annual committment to Mayors by senior managers to achieve measurable goals
  • review achievements of the previous year and proposed objectives for the forthcoming year
Compliance monitoring
  • Mayor/Deputy mayors regularly monitor compliance with financial and human resources regulations and rules, and management objectives
  • identifying problem areas within individual departments and sections
  • proposing remedial action
  • information made available to the mayor/deputy mayor, and the accountability panel.
Accountability Panel
  • chaired by the MAyor
  • review exercise of managerial authority and responsibility within the local government
  • inform the mayor and instigate/recommend action
Ensuring accountability alongside human resource regorms
  • specific regorms need to include measures to ensure accountability
  • specific reforms need to be reviewed to ensure that the four principles of accountability are met
  • all delegation of authority need to be specifically tested against these principles.
Applying the four principles:


The person receiving authority must be informed of:

  • programme results and resources, financial and human, allocated
  • How they are to be monitored and assessed
  • limits to their authority
  • organizational values, policies, rules and regulations, and the behavioural standards


  • regular and timely management information
  • training and development
  • access to senior managers
  • advice from financial and human resource management experts


Objective comparison of results against targets and standards, covering:

  • delivery of programmes, cost and quality
  • management of human and financial resources
  • decision-making: authority fully exercised but not exceeded
  • compliance with policies, values, rules and regulations, and behavioural standards.


Dealing with:

  • excellence
  • satisfactory performance
  • unsatisfactory execution of responsibility and authority as a result of carelessness or ignorance
  • unacceptable execution of responsibility and authority due to deliberate flouting of policies, rules and regulations,m or exceeding the limits of decision-making authority.

REFORM + ACCOUNTABILITY = an organizational culture that is results-oriented, rewards creativity and innovation, and promotes continuous learning and high performance.
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