Accountability — an obligation imposed on a person or organization to be assessed for the action by the superior authority. If the person or an organization is accountable to someone, this means they are ready to be judged. Accountability applies to all members of a certain organization, and to the organization itself.
When it comes to the organization, accountability creates a system of inner surveillance. It may be horizontal (performers of one task control each other) or vertical (line personnel are accountable to the management). This system of surveillance allows the company to control the inner working processes and identify errors in the early stages.
As for the organizations, they are usually accountable to the monitoring institutions or governing authorities. These authorities evaluate the correspondence of working processes with the current legislation (e.g. tax legislation, health, and safety regulations, equipment integrity).
Difference between Accountability and responsibility
Sometimes the term “accountability” is confused with the word “responsibility”. These words have something in common — they both mean that the person or organization will be assessed for the actions. However, there are several differences between these two definitions.
Accountability happens after the situation has occurred e.g. the employee has performed the work. It is assigned only to the individual who reports on his work to the senior team member. Accountability focuses on the results or the achieved goals. After the individual has reported on the performed task, he takes ownership of the results. If the results are unsatisfactory, the accountable should explain it.
As for responsibility, this notion means the zone of accountability of each team member. It is related to the ongoing processes. If the person is responsible for something, they ensure the quality of this thing during the whole working process. Responsibility can be shared, this means the responsible person can deliver their functions to another individual or divide them. The responsible person doesn’t own the explanation because it can be accessed anytime. In distinction from accountability, the responsibility is related to the task or project.
Types of Accountability
Corporate Accountability — is a responsibility of a certain organization to society and the staff. The responsibility before the staff means that the company should follow the labor legislation. A company should ensure the implementation of the working conditions for the personnel.
The responsibility to society means that the company should publish annual and quarterly financial reports and indicate the income and expenses. Also, it should be inspected by several authorities from the different spheres (taxes, fire safety, protection of labor) to confirm the proper state of material resources.
Political Accountability — is a responsibility of a certain politician to the society. Mostly, it means transparency of corporate donations and tax declaration. This is necessary to exclude the wasteful spending of public property and the money of the taxpayers.
Government Accountability — is a responsibility of the government authorities to the taxpayers. This means that the government should spend the taxes on social needs and then prove that all funds were spent properly. Government accountability implies a fair justice system, economic freedom, and civil society.
Media Accountability — is a responsibility of certain media to the viewers and listeners. The owners of media should understand their influence on society. That’s why the media needs to provide quality content and follow the corresponding legislation. Also, they should avoid incitement to hatred, misinformation and work with unverified sources.
Social Media Accountability — is a responsibility of a certain influencer before the subscribers. Sometimes this section is included in the category “media accountability”. However, now, social media completes or even surpasses the traditional ones. That’s why influencers and bloggers should understand how they impact their subscribers and follow the regulation concerning traditional media.