Public Accountability

Mark Bovens

in The Oxford Handbook of Public Management

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780199226443
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management C

Public Accountability

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  • Business Ethics



Public accountability is the hallmark of modern democratic governance. Democracy remains a paper procedure if those in power cannot be held accountable in public for their acts and omissions, for their decisions, their policies, and their expenditures. Public accountability, as an institution, therefore, is the complement of public management. As a concept, however, “public accountability” is rather elusive. It is one of those evocative political words that can be used to patch up a rambling argument, to evoke an image of trustworthiness, fidelity, and justice, or to hold critics at bay. Historically, the concept of accountability is closely related to accounting. In fact, it literally comes from bookkeeping. Nowadays, accountability has moved far beyond its bookkeeping origins and has become a symbol for good governance, both in the public and in the private sector.

Keywords: public accountability; democratic governance; public management; good governance; public sector; private sector

Article.  10658 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Public Management and Administration ; Business Ethics

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