Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Accountability can be defined in the following manner: When people are meant to pursue the will and/or interests of others, they should give an account of their actions to those others so that those others are then able to decide whether to reward or to censure them for the actions. Accountability thus suggests that an agent (such as an elected politician or a civil servant) is responsible for acting on behalf of a principal (such as, respectively, a citizen or minister) to whom he or she should respond and report. The principal is thereby able to hold the agent accountable for his or her actions. The word accountability derives from the Latin word computare , which literally meant “to count” and which referred mainly to bookkeeping and other types of financial record keeping. As we have seen, however, the word accountability now has a more general sense of “giving Prior ...