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Types of public accountability in public sector is our next topic to discuss in this article, aside important of accountability, there are five (5) types of accountability. namely

  1. Horizontal Accountability
  2. Vertical Accoutability
  3. Social Accountability
  4. Diagonal Accountability
  5. Financial Accountability

Public Accountability is an obligation required from public officials to be answerable for what has been accomplished (or not accomplished) from the resource entrusted to their care pursuant to a responsibility conferred on them.

Public accountability ensures actions and decisions taken by public officials are subject to oversight so as to guarantee that government initiatives meet their stated objectives and respond to the needs of the citizenry they are meant to be benefiting, thereby contributing to better governance and poverty reduction.

Generally, accountability exists when performance of an individual or body are subject to the oversight, direction or request of another person or body that provide information or justification for their actions.


Accountability provides a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of public officials or public bodies to ensures that they are performing to their full potential, providing value for money in the provision of public services, instilling confidence in the government and being responsive to the citizenry they are meant to be saving.

Accountability comes in different forms depending on the type of accountability exercised and the person, group or institution the public official answers to. The most common types of accountabilities are as follow.


This occurs where public institutions of accountability, such as parliament and the judiciary, in their capacity and with their autonomous powers call into question, and eventually punish, improper ways of discharging the responsibilities of a given official.

In other words, horizontal accountability is the capacity of state institutions to check abuses by other public agencies and branches of government.

Parliament and the judiciary being the main agents for horizontal constitutional checks on the power of the executive have their role being further delineated in that parliament holds the executive politically accountable. (i.e., hold them to decisions of cabinet), whilst the judiciary holds the executive legally accountable.

These classifications emanate from the fact parliament is a political institution, while the judiciary can only adjudicate on legal issues. Together, they provide ongoing oversight in order to keep the government accountable throughout its term in office.

They ma also be aided by other constitutional established intuitions, such as Audit Service, Anti-corruption agencies like economic and organized crime office and human rights agencies such as commission of human rights and administrative justice.

These secondary ‘autonomous institutions of accountability are typically designed to be independent of the executive the accountability role.


This is the process where the citizenry and the civil society seek to enforce standards of good performance among public officials.

It usually occurs where there is a classic top-down, principal-agent relationship, whereby the principal delegates to the agent, the agent is accountable to their direct superiors in the chain of command and this constitutes a form of vertical accountability.

For instance, the public official answers to the department head. The department head answers to the minister of a Ministry, the minister answers to parliament and parliament answers to citizens.

While parliament is typically considered as a key institution in contracts of horizontal accountability, it is also important in vertical accountability.

Through the use of public hearings, committee investigations and public petitioning, parliament provides a vehicle for public voice and a means through which citizens and civil groups can question government and seek parliament sanctioning where appropriate.


This is and approach of extracting accountability from public officials that relies on civic engagement, whereby ordinary citizens and / or civil society organizations participate directly or indirectly in exacting accountability. Such accountability is sometimes referred to it as society driven horizontal accountability.

Mechanisms of social accountability can be initiated and supported by the state, citizens or both, but very often they are demand-driven and operate from the bottom-up.

However, the role that legislators plays in social accountability mechanisms cannot be over emphasized.

For instance, a member of parliament can represent the concerns of his/her constituents by questioning a minister during questioning period in parliament or by requestion information directly from a government ministry or department.


Diagonal accountability seeks to engage citizens directly in the workings of horizontal accountability institutions. This is an effort to augment the limited effectiveness of civil society’s which dog function by breaking the states monopoly over responsibility for official executive oversight. The main principles of diagonal accountability are:

  • Participation in horizontal accountability mechanisms – citizenry participate in institutions of horizontal accountability, rather than creating distinct and separate institutions of diagonal accountability. In this way agents of vertical accountability seek to insert themselves more directly into the horizontal axis.
  • Information flow – the citizenry are given an opportunity to access information about government agencies that would normally be limited to the horizontal axis, for instance internal performance reviews etc. furthermore, they have access to the deliberations and reasons why horizontal accountability institutions make the decisions they do.
  • Compel officials to answer – the citizenry co-opts the horizontal accountability institutions authority to compels a government agency to answer questions about usage of state resources.
  • Capacity to sanction – the citizenry acquires the authority of the horizontal accountability institution to enforce the findings or influence elected officials.

Financial accountability (also known as stewardship) refers to the entrustment of assets to a stard. It involves the demonstration that these assets have not been misappropriated, but have been put to proper use.

Stewardship accounting therefore entails the productions of a statement of financial position and income statement and the validation of these financial statement by an independent auditor who certifies their truth and fairness.

All government organizations are required to publish full financial statements which have been independently audited by the auditor general.

Most public organization also published their operational and strategic plans and these are open to public scrutiny and commentary.


Public accountability involves two distinct: answerability and enforcement. Different institutions of accountability might be responsible for either or both these stages depending on the nature of the accountability process.

  1. Answerability is a aspect of accountability which refers to the obligation of the government, its agencies and public officials to provide information about their decisions and actions and to justify them to the public and those institutions of accountability tasked with providing oversight.
  2. Enforcement on the other hand suggests that the public or the institution responsible for accountability can sanction the offending party or remedy the contravening behavior. As such.


The public sector accounting post or guides or articles are not limited to these 10 countries alone:

  1. Ghana
  2. Nigeria
  3. United States
  4. Uganda
  5. India
  6. Kenya
  7. Philippines
  8. Malaysia
  9. Tanzania
  10. South Africa

But instead targeted all the countries in the world since public sector accounting is being practice in every country in the world, so wherever country you are in the world can read public sector guides here since public sector accounting applications are similar.

Eric Adjei

Eric Adjei

A professional with six (8) years’ experience in finance and accounting. Demonstrating expertise in accounting procedures, computerized accounting system management and financial operations. Financially astute with excellent analytical, problem solving, management, people supervision, organizational, business administration, operation and commercial management and teaching skills.

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