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POGAR > What We Do > Transparency & Accountability

Transparency and accountability are major components of good governance as defined by UNDP, and they underlie POGAR’s regional anti-corruption work, which is aimed at providing a regional platform for mainstreaming anti-corruption in development, supporting the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption in the Arab countries, in partnership with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and providing technical assistance to country-level anti-corruption initiatives undertaken by the UNDP and its partners.

Transparency and accountability are interrelated concepts and mutually reinforcing for a more effective approach to address the challenges of corruption, which continues to threaten human development and human security for millions of people across the Arab region and many more across the world.

Transparency refers to sharing information and acting in an open manner. It allows stakeholders to gather information that may be critical to uncovering abuses and defending their interests. Transparent systems have clear procedures for public decision-making and open channels of communication between stakeholders and officials, and make a wide range of information accessible.

Transparency is built on the free flow of information. Processes, institutions and information are directly accessible to those concerned with them, and enough information is provided to understand and monitor them. Accessible information means more transparency. Responsive institutions must be transparent and function according to the rule of law if they are to be equitable. Reform of state institutions to make them more efficient, accountable and transparent is a cornerstone of good governance. Bureaucratic transparency is heavily dependent on the availability and validity of information. The vigorous debate of public policy issues, which lies at the core of good public management, demands that governments make available data pertaining to national accounts, balance of payments, employment, and cost of living. The quality of decision-making, and the risks and costs, are a function of the nature of information supply. Government is clearly a major source of information as well as a major user. Government policies are vulnerable to poor quality information in the same way that information about the economy and market conditions are essential to valid private sector calculations.

Transparency is a key element of bureaucratic accountability that entails, among other things, making available for public scrutiny all public accounts and audit reports. Transparency protects against government error, the misallocation of resources, and corruption. Efforts by external contributors to promote transparency have been directed at helping governments make budgets and public expenditure programmes more transparent. Environmental protection and all forms of procurement are other areas in which transparency is critical to effectiveness and the containment of corruption. Procurement in particular offers considerable opportunity for malfeasance. The media can exert significant influence in this domain.

Accountability: UNDP defines accountability as the requirement that officials answer to stakeholders on the disposal of their powers and duties, act on criticisms or requirements made of them and accept (some) responsibility for failure, incompetence or deceit.

Mechanisms for holding officials accountable can be interorganizational, as between branches of government; intraorganisational, as between supervisors and subordinates; and extraorganisational, as when an organisation and its functionaries answer directly to customers or stakeholders. Accountability mechanisms can address the issues of both who holds office and the nature of decisions by those in office.

Accountability requires freedom of information, stakeholders who are able to organise and the rule of law.

Bureaucratic accountability, particularly in relation to the management of public funds, is another criterion of sound public management. Accountability requires a system to monitor and control the performance of government officers and organisations, particularly in relation to quality, inefficiencies, and the abuse of resources. Open and rigorous systems of financial management and procurement, accounting and auditing, and revenues collection (for example, customs duty)-- together with enforced penalties for malfeasance--are also necessary.

In order to achieve a more efficient and more equitable form of management, most governments in developing countries are conducting sweeping reforms of their bureaucracies. Reform of state institutions so that they become more efficient, accountable and transparent is a cornerstone of good governance. Effective reform requires political commitment, which should include the support of the private sector and civil society. UNDP's experience with and technical knowledge of public administration reform and management of development has ranged from pioneering work in national technical cooperation assessments and programmes to support for comprehensive civil service reforms. In many countries UNDP has sought key partners and coalitions that are politically strong, found suitable entry points, initiated a policy dialogue that brings together stakeholders and beneficiaries and introduced reform in a phased, systemic manner.

UNDP efforts in many of these countries have emphasized interventions that build on people's high education levels and help them gain access to outside knowledge, information and experiences, which help them develop capacities that reflect reform priorities. Reforms are also systemic, at times integrating many interrelated processes and generally emphasizing good governance and a stable macroeconomic framework. Developing democratic and accountable institutions (including political parties, free trade unions and the media) are critical. Support to emerging private and civil society organisations, particularly to develop management capacities and accountability, are priorities.

Decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society organisations must be held accountable to the public, as well as to institutional stakeholders. This accountability differs depending on the organisation and whether the decision is internal or external to an organisation.