Accountability is the essence of our democratic form of government. It is the liability assumed by all those who exercise authority to account for the manner in which they have fulfilled responsibilities entrusted to them, a liability ultimately to the American people owed by the government and thus, every governmental department and agency. Without it, power in the hands of the wrong individual or group could be abused to the extent where laws and policies could be formulated which would undermine the integrity of the American population.
As discussed thoroughly within this course, power is an integral and legitimate theme, but political power must be properly controlled and regulated through accountable measures. This accountability tends to disrupt the efficiency of the government as well as the bureaucracy. As history shows, neither of these two institutions can afford to suffer more inefficiency. In this brief essay, I will discuss how accountability and efficiency tend to have a negative impact on each other, but are a necessary evil in regards to the ideals of democracy.
Furthermore, I will explain why ensuring accountability, while striving to maintain efficiency, are the most difficult themes to overcome as a government official. Accountability has always been a central concern of both the study and the practice of public management. The concept has also been elusive and controversial. Critics have seldom been hard pressed to find fault with existing accountability arrangements and procedures. When something has gone seriously wrong within government, the tendency has been to adopt wider definitions of accountability and to add new layers of accountability requirements.
An ironic consequence of the expansion of the meaning of accountability has been to create even greater confusion about who is accountable for what in government. With all the confusion surrounding the need for accountability, maintaining efficiency becomes negatively impacted. For government workers, it may prove difficult to maintain their rigorous work schedules. The pressures to complete tasks appointed to them from their superiors and/or the citizens they represent, forces them to make the difficult decision: do they take shortcuts to ensure timeliness, or do they continue their work step by step and hold themselves accountable?
With the ever increasing need for accountability, it is important to note where that accountability is coming from. The responsibility should rest in the hands of the American Public, but with the vast size of the bureaucracy, and the fact that most Americans are somewhat out of touch with the scope of politics, many government workers go unchecked. Internal oversight from commissions and judicial means are lengthy, drawn-out process that only bogs the system down further.
This is another reason that the theory of political accountability vs. efficiency proves to be the most difficult to operate around. Many issues are overlooked, or go unchecked due to the time constraints placed upon government workers. However, the ones that are placed in check result in an over abundance of time and effort. By concentrating on a singular issue at a time, other workers are placed into situation where they are forced to watch their every move. The entire system is a catch-22; by holding individuals or departments accountable for their ineffectiveness, you are in a sense creating ineffectiveness and inefficiencies.
It is a vicious cycle to say the least. Finally, it is uncertain just how many government workers are placed into situations that call for extreme measures of accountability, but it is safe to say that their definitely needs to be an overhaul of the system. A new method for accountability must be concocted—whether by improving senate oversight effectiveness—or by setting aside internal protocols for measuring personal and intergovernmental responsibilities.
In the end, it is clear that the theme of political efficiency vs. accountability remains a never ending search for balance. There must be a way to create less confusion about who is accountable for what in a government that, at times, seems to large to remain consistently efficient and effective. Furthermore, the system must be reevaluated and improved. After all, it is the government workers themselves that are charged with the daunting task of making the jobs of all government workers easier, and that allows them to focus on serving those that elected or appointed them.