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Examine the Characteristics of American Administrative Accountability

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Accountability is an elusive concept, but understanding where it originates can help citizens find ways to hold governments accountable. In the narrowest sense, accountability is equated with answerability; it refers to the obligation to give an account of one’s action to particular individuals, groups, or organizations. However, in a world where public administrators increasingly operate in intergovernmental networks and global coalitions, deciphering what constitutes accountability in public management has become a challenging task

One of the simplest ways to unravel the mystery of accountability for public administrators is to trace back to the root sources; and examine how it unfolds across varying levels to affect governmental decision-making.

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Cooper emphasized on that responsible public administrator knows how to decide an ethical choice in which one might be involved in right action versus wrong action and even sometimes right action versus right action. The individual must build up the skills of moral imagination which involves the capability to create a “movie in our minds” which must consider the dynamics of the environment in which ethical choice must be taken care. The goal for the responsible public administrator is to bring up the ethical situation of the public servant and develop creative reflection of this situation while not only laying down the public service values. This emphasized on how the public servants are responsible to act ethically and not to take advantage of their powers. Also, public administrators must behave ethically during their public service and do the value-based decisions during while performing their duties. The responsible public administrator must know how to act in a situation where the right action versus the wrong action and in some cases, right action against the right action. The decisions for such actions must be ethical no matter what environment is and also according to values of the government business. Cooper’s framework provides a solid base for all aspects of public administration involved in decision making and make sure that the public administrator must balance the professional, personal, and organizational values. This framework enables the public servants while they are performing their duties to take decisions neutrally and ethically. Their decisions must be according to the rules and regulations of the government and must not violate any political and governmental rules. The framework not only literate the public administrators about ethics, in fact it demands the actions ethically and practically neutral. In conclusion, the responsible public administrators are important for the democratic government and citizens of the country because these administrators take decisions on all public and national matters neutrally and ethically and also take care of their actions must be according to the law. The democratic government must be successful if they have responsible public servants because there are the people who act upon the government decisions

The democratic government only succeeds by fair play and the public administrators are one of key players of this fair play. These administrators take decisions based upon actions which are right and valuable for community and the country rather than just decision making.

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As long as one’s ontology with regards to causation stays within the typical statistical worldview (i.e. assuming unit homogeneity, symmetric and linear causation, and independent effect of individual factors), studies of the same subtype of accountability can be compared across contexts and generalizations be drawn from an accumulated set of results. However, many contemporary theories about politics theorize rather more complex and varied models of causation where equifinality, multifinality, multiple conjectural causal models, path dependencies, increasing returns, and diffusion figure prominently (George and Bennett, 2005)

When trying to serve the aim of accumulation of knowledge, efforts at combining results from such studies to create more general statements about either the causes of, or the effects of one particular subtype of accountability seem to be inherently implausible, or at least very much more difficult. A path dependency argument, for example, negates the independent effect of individual factors as well as the causal ontology of multiple conjunctural causation insofar as the latter approach models factors identified with a particular outcome as current and historically independent (Pierson, 2000). Therefore, even if studies are carried out on the same subtype of accountability but are based on different causal ontologies, the results will again not be a sound basis for comparative generalizations. Finally, empirical reality also has a way of making things complicated. In most societies and political systems, various accountability relationships have been established at various points in time with the effect that even single institutions have multiple layers of various types of accountability.

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To sum up, accountability is used primarily as a normative concept, as a set of standards for the evaluation of the behaviour of public actors. Accountability or, more precisely, being accountable, is seen as a positive quality in organisations or officials

Hence, accountability studies often focus on normative issues, on the assessment of the actual and active behaviour of public agents. In the latter case, accountability is used in a narrower, descriptive sense. It is seen as an institutional relation or arrangement in which an actor can be held to account by a forum.

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Friedrich, Carl J. (1940) ‘Public Policy and the Nature of Administrative Responsibility’ in Carl J.Friedrich and Edward S Mason (eds.) Public Policy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gallie, W. B. (1956) ‘Essentially Contested Concepts’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56: 167-198.

Garfinkel, Harold (1984) Studies in Ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

George, Alexander, and Andrew Bennett (2005) ‘Case Studies and Theory Development’, Chapter 1 in Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press:1-36.

Pierson, Paul (2000) ‘Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics’, American Political Science Review 84(2): 251-267.

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