Select Committee on Public Administration Memoranda


Diagram 1: Different Types of Accountability: Attempts at Categorisation

  Diagram 1 highlights the complexity of the topic under investigation. Given this complexity, it is helpful to view the mechanisms of accountability as a circuit. Accountability in a representative democracy is, in the strictest sense, linked to the revocability of a mandate. But electoral accountability on its own is a very crude form of accountability and as James Madison noted:

  ". . . experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions". The degree to which a political system is said to ensure accountable government is dependent on a range of these auxiliary precautions of which Parliament is just one element. These are the mechanisms of accountability which, when taken together, can be regarded as a complex circuit. Diagram 2 attempts to display this circuit for central government, whilst also highlighting which mechanisms are internal or external to Parliament.

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Prepared 24 November 1999