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In the course of history in public administration in the Philippines, state institutions
and even the private sector have been taught valuable lessons on the implications of
negative bureaucratic behavior on state governance and societal development in general.
In particular, lingering issues on graft and corruption have not only attracted public
attention throughout the years, but also increased the demand for administrative
integrity, accountability, and stronger anti-corruption strategies. After all, persistent
problems such as poverty, massive inflation and rising social inequality compete for
airtime or column space along with news of graft and corruption in the public sector, a
clear reflection that graft and corruption indeed hinder inclusive growth and sustainable
As technology develops and more complex administrative problems arise in the
Philippine administrative system, new tools for preventing corruption and upholding
ethical standards and accountability are constantly being developed to impose greater
responsibility over public officials, monitor bureaucratic practices and guard against
negative bureaucratic behavior. Even then, responding to or addressing emerging forms
of graft and corruption remains a daunting task for state institutions and oversight
This paper discusses relevant issues on administrative ethics and accountability.
From here, the paper takes off from a number of recent events to reflect on the
consequences of corruption. Ultimately, the paper presents current and prospective
strategies to guard against graft and corruption in the bureaucracy.
Ethics in the Public Sector
The persistence of problems on graft, corruption and other forms of negative
bureaucratic behavior, warrant a constant, meaningful discourse on ethics, particularly in
the field of public administration. While this may not be a relatively new topic to discuss
in fact, it may be a little overrated for some, especially those that somehow consider
corruption as the new normal in the Philippine administrative systemand while ethics
is a multifaceted concept that is constantly evolving according to the demands of time
and necessity of citizens, we tend to all agree that one of the hindrances to progress and
development of the state and society in general is unethical bureaucratic practices,
including the classic graft and corruption.
Then again, policymakers and even bureaucrats are faced with the dilemma of
differentiating what is right from wrong in public administration. Many state institutions:
the Constitution, the Church, interest groups, professionals, indigenous peoples, etc.,
have crafted ethical standards with different determinants of acceptable and
unacceptable bureaucratic behavior, adding to the confusion. The evolution of public
administration also aggravated the problem by introducing emerging ethical norms.
In the ensuing discussion on administrative ethics in the Philippine setting, we find
that there are common junctureshoned through history, experience and evolution of


administrative approachesamong these plethora of norms under which bureaucrats
must adhere to. The commonalities of what is acceptable and unacceptable point
ultimately to the emergence of a free market society and economy-based government
that has since transformed public governance from being citizen-oriented to consumeroriented.

Ethics, accountability and corruption in the Philippines: a history

Pre-conquest era
Historical records pointing to the existence of sultanates in the southernmost parts
of Mindanao during 15th century tells us that indeed, political organizations were already
established even before the Spaniards came into the Philippines in 1521. Small
communities composed of around 30-100 families called barangays were established
along rivers. These barangays were headed by datus or village chiefs whose functions
were to maintain existence and uphold peace and order in the community. The datu being
at the apex of hierarchy had stratified authority and performed the roles of a chief
executive, a lawmaker and a judge. He settled disputes, provides services and mobilizes
communities to act (Reyes, 2003). The datus authority was considered to be supreme
and pre-eminent; however, the position was customarily hereditary (Endriga, 1979). If not
inherited, the datu remained in power by endowments, display of prowess and valor
during battles, or by exemplary leadership.
The concept of graft and corruption may have not yet been clearly defined during
the pre-conquest era, and no clear standards were set to differentiate which
administrative activities were ethical or unethical. Meanwhile, some cultural practices in
the pre-colonial period mirrored or were embedded in the present administrative system.
For example, the inextricable link with families and personal loyalties, as well as
leadership-centered activities typical of the pre-colonial communities, still affects how our
government works today (Reyes, 2003).
Since customary laws prevailed during the pre-colonial society, and there were no
concrete definitions for graft and corruption, there may have been occasions when people
during that period engaged in corrupt practices. The existence of social classes,
feudalism, concentration of authority to the datu and his subjects, and inheritance of
position by virtue of blood or display of valor in battles, or endowments, may have likely
encouraged corruption in the pre-colonial period. These assumptions were of course
made by Spanish conquistador-writers whose customs and practices were not in line with
that of the pre-colonial Filipinos (Endriga, 1979).
Spanish colonization
Graft and corruption was said to be prevalent during the Spanish period. The
culture of corruption said to have been earlier perpetuated by the class system in the precolonial period was rather reinforced at that time. In particular, Endriga (1979:246)


mentioned that corruption during the Spanish period can be broadly defined as the
deviation from the idealistic, high-minded norms contained in legislation of various
Sources of graft and corruption may be attributed to the inconsistencies of colonial
objectives and administrative approaches during the Spanish regime. Conflict between
Authority of Will and Authority of Wisdom gave Spanish bureaucrats wide discretion
based mainly on their priorities and motivations. Simply put, there was disconnect
between the interest of the colonizers to promote evangelical law and the interest to
increase collection of profits. This compromised idealism and expediency in the
administrative system during the period.
Public office, during the Spanish regime, was regarded as a grant or favor from the
king or by purchase. The latter means violated the provisions of Spanish law at the time;
positions were endowed on the basis of highest bidding and not on the basis of
competence and capabilities of personnel. Eventually, bureaucratic positions were
considered private investments or property. This meant that the officeholder could invest
in a position, which eventually will be recovered through profit.
Another factor was the dominance of colonial bureaucracy and its effect on the
Filipinos during the Spanish period. Endriga (1979) described the bureaucracy as a rule
over a powerless population that was unable to affect its colonizers. With colonial
bureaucracy, the highest position that a Filipino may occupy was cabeza de barangay. All
the rest were occupied by the Spaniards.
Some of the remedies that were established during the Spanish regime to control
graft and corruption were the institution of the Visitador General, an official sent out by
Council of Indies in Spain and vested with investigatory, judicial and executory powers, to
conduct Visita, an unanticipated investigation of officials, which provides basis for
suspending or removing erring officials from their positions; and Residencia, which
required bureaucrats to render at the end of their term an account or their conduct before
they could assume another office position. These were essentially effective counterchecking procedures; however they were not strictly implemented.
American regime
The Philippine political structure was vastly improved during the American period,
mimicking that of the United States (Endriga 2003). Church was separated from state;
and the Filipinos were somewhat encouraged to participate in all levels of government,
albeit at a much later time after the Americans occupied the country. The concept of a
public office being position of public trust and responsibility, and the merit system were
among the new philosophies introduced during the American colonization (Endriga 1979).
Among the first laws implemented to increase the credibility of civil service was the Act
for Establishment and Maintenance of an Efficient and Honest Civil Service in the
Philippine Islands. It reflected the practice of the Weberian Bureaucracy, characterized
by selection of members based on qualifications and not merely by political patronage
that was typical of the spoils system.


The civil service laws during the American regime benefited public service in the
Professionalization of and adequate compensation for civil servants
increased the morale of bureaucrats who were treated like milking cows back in the
Spanish period. In a way, reforms in the civil service were a preventive mechanism
against graft and corruption. This supplemented the Penal Code, which was established
in the 1930s to prevent corrupt practices in the bureaucracy (Endriga, 1979).
However, Endriga (1979) pointed out that corruption was still manifest during this
period. The civil service system in the American colonial period eliminated the spoils
system, but only in part, to supposedly accommodate Filipino experiences and interests.
This loophole gave some of the bureaucrats a window of opportunity for petty or smallscale corruption. Then again, these problems were usually settled or addressed promptly
or effectively under the American colonial government.
Independent Republic
After World War II, the country had to go through vast rehabilitation of
infrastructure such as roads, bridges and school buildings, which were devastated after
the World War II. Reyes (2003: 51) described it as a time when poverty was endemic and
the widespread destruction of property served to exacerbate the situation.
Opportunities for public personnel to commit corrupt practices came from the huge
amount of financial aid that the country received for reconstruction. Amid economic
crisis, public officials were tempted to commit corrupt practices, slowly eroding publics
trust towards the government. Co (2005), in her paper on Challenges To Philippine
Culture Of Corruption: Causes, Consequences And Change, referred to corruption as a
result of misconceptions about public office as an opportunity to reap personal rewards
than to nobly serve in the government. With the constantly changing perspectives and
practices of corruption through the years, public officials began to concede that
corruption was a natural act.
Marcos dictatorship
Graft and corrupt practices during Marcos regime were prevalent among his
cronies and associates. Misuse of government funds, drawn from monopolies of major
industries such as sugar, tobacco and coconut, led to accumulation of ill-gotten wealth.
Blood relatives of either former President Marcos or his First Lady Imelda owned and
dominated public and private enterprises. The Marcos regime was described as a
deviation from democracy to the so-called kleptocracy, resulting in a loss of multibillion assets from foreign investments and government revenues, and accumulation of
unexplained wealth.1

2015].Almario, Manuel F. (2011, February 27). The dismal record of the Marcos Regime. Retrieved from



Several ethical issues, aside from graft and corrupt practices, can be rooted from
Marcos twenty-year presidency. President Marcos perpetuated massive militarization
campaign when he declared Martial Law in 1972, supposedly as a means to restore peace
and order; however, others believed that it was his way of prolonging his dictatorship and
authority. There were accounts of human rights violations and curtailment of the freedom
of expression and assembly.
Nonetheless, a number of anti-corruption laws were enforced during Marcos time,
albeit being weak and altogether a lukewarm response to corruption. Among these were
the following: Presidential Decree No. 6, which identified punishable administrative
offenses and immediate dismissal of guilty officials; Presidential Decree No. 46, which
prohibited public official to receive gifts on any occasion including Christmas; and
Presidential Decree No. 677, which required public officials to submit Statement of Assets
and Liabilities (SAL) (Quah, 2010). These laws, however, are almost inoperable and
overlapping with the existing law Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices
Act of 1960) (Co, 2005).
Post-Marcos period
After the Marcos dictatorship, succeeding leaders strived to undo the mistakes of
the past and focused on installing a number of anti-corruption laws and regulations. In
fact, Quah (2010) points out that, among Asian countries, the Philippines has the most
number of anti-corruption mechanisms implemented. In particular, the Philippine
government has maintained seven anti-corruption laws and 19 presidential anticorruption agencies in the past half-century. However, the mushrooming of these
organizations was usually due to changes in leadership and the leaders own discretion to
abolish and create new agencies. Even then, these agencies had to be salvaged over and
over again. The Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG) itself allegedly
harbored graft and corruption during Cory Aquinos administration. It was replaced by
the Presidential Committee on Public Ethics and Accountability in May 1987, which was
equally incompetent due to lack of resources. This agency was repeatedly rehashed
under the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations. In 2002, the Arroyo administration
initiated lifestyle checks on public officials, examining their leisure habits, possible
relatives employed through influence, and other possible conflicts of interest. However,
this gained little support from the citizens due to Arroyos alleged graft and corruption
offenses, among which are the controversial NBN-ZTE deal and the Hello Garci scandal
(Quah, 2010).
President Benigno Aquino III tried to rectify and take into account the alleged
corrupt practices committed during the past administrations. In 2012, President Aquino
signed the Act to Further Strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Law and the Terrorism
Financing Prevention and Suppression Act in an effort to improve transparency and
accountability, capacity to investigate graft and corruption cases and suppress funding
for terrorist activities, respectively. President Aquino also signed the third amendment to
the Anti-Money Laundering Act, expanding the scope of the law to more illegal acts. The
Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC), on the other hand, mandated the ten most
corruption-prone government agencies to submit to lifestyle checks and/or report major


corruption cases every three months. Meanwhile, the Freedom of Information Bill, one of
the anticipated laws to improve transparency and accountability in the public sector, is
yet to be passed by the government. However, as what will be discussed in the section
on Corruption, these laws and mechanisms remained weakly implemented and
unenforceable due to poor mainstreaming and coordination across government agencies
(GAN Integrity Solutions [online]).
Box 1 lists a number of anti-corruption laws and policies, as well as constitutional
anti-corruption bodies.
Administrative ethics
In one of his renowned lectures on politics, Jovito Salonga, a well-known Filipino
statesman, described ethics as a discipline dealing with right and wrong. But how do
we distinguish right from wrong? In relation to this question, Salonga also stated that
ethics is a multi-faceted concept that goes beyond the usual limitations of law. He further
elaborates on this by saying:
This is another way of saying that what is legal may not be moral, that what
may not violate the law may nevertheless violate standards of honesty,
fairness, propriety decency, accountability, and compassion (Salonga, in
Tapales, 1994:69).
Salonga also discussed a number of issues that were relevant during his time, such
as the appointment of relatives in another public office, state funeral for Marcos, and the
controversial Senate decision in 1991 on the RP-US Bases Treaty, to illustrate that
administrative ethics may tend to go beyond the confines of law. In the following
discussion, we will see some of the perspectives of administrative ethics, their differences
and common junctures that could clarify ethical dilemmas in public administration.
Normative foundations
Ethics is a very broad concept and is a subject of interest of many scholars. It is
composed of diverse perspectives which may be rooted from religious, political,
professional and social beliefs. Among the perspectives of administrative ethics,
according to Cooper (2004), are the following:
a. Regime Values
These are values embodied in the constitution. While states differ on their
constitutional frameworks, Scholar John Rohr, author of Ethics for Bureaucrats: An Essay
on Law and Values, identified general constitutional values as freedom, equality and
b. Citizenship Theory
In this perspective, public administrators are encouraged to put themselves in the
shoes of the citizens. They are expected to consider the welfare of citizens in the
conduct of public service; and their ethical obligations dwell with good citizenship. Thus,


should also be responsive, responsible and accountable to the citizens. They are
expected to be people-centered, to forgo self-interest, lead people towards common good
and establish moral bond with the community. As custodians of resources public
administrators should be responsible in using, allocating and generating the same.
Moreover, public administrators should be accountable by sharing authority and reducing
c. Social Equity
It was during the New Public Administration movement that social equity became
the central principle of government. Forerunners of New PAH.G. Frederickson, Frank
Marini, William Lambright, among other scholarspointed out that despite economic
growth, indeed social problems such as poverty, unemployment and illiteracy still prevail.
New PA sought to address the deprivation of the poor, and eventually social equity
became a guiding principle for public administration ethics.
d. Virtue
Virtue is an essential element of public administration ethics and, as a form of
character, assessed using the frameworks of moral crises and moral processes.
Ultimately, under this perspective, an individual tends to slowly build his/her tendencies
to act according to his/her espoused principles and values particularly in situations
wherein these principles and values are attacked or confronted with.
e. Public Interest
Public interest, according to scholars, is widely recognized normative foundation for
administrative ethics. This is true especially because serving the public interest is a major
function of the government and is the primary distinction of public from private
administration. However, public interest scope has a wide scope. It is not homogenous
because there is a wide range of interests made by the public and it continues to evolve
over time. Public interest as normative administrative ethic leads us to the fundamental
obligation of serving the general shared interest and not that of the few.
These normative foundations offer a general scope of what administrative ethics
should entail. While they should ideally comprise what should be ethical to
administrative institutions, they each differ on the approach to ethics. From these five
normative foundations, we will magnify ethics based on regime values and public interest
and how they usually clash with that determined by virtues, social equity and citizenship
Clash of bureaucratic and cultural norms
Cario (1979), in support of Salonga, explained that there indeed exists a conflict
between the legal and cultural determinants of bureaucrat behavior. In particular, what
are determined unacceptable by law may fall within the ideal and acceptable behavior
according to culture. In her article on the conflict of ethics and law, Cario purported
seven bureaucratic legal norms that govern the behaviors of bureaucrat and its
corresponding provisions it embodies in Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as AntiGraft and Corrupt Practices Act. These are the following:


a. Universalistic Norms
This norm upholds equal, depersonalized treatment of stakeholders. In Republic
Act No. 3019, the principle is manifest in the provision prohibiting acts that give client
undue advantage, such as:

Directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift, present, share,

percentage, or benefit, for himself or for any other person, in connection with any
contract or transaction between the Government and any other party, wherein the
public officer in his official capacity has to intervene under the law. (Section 3b,
RA 3019)
b. Priority Norms
The priority norm adheres to the idea of first come, first served basis versus the
idea of preference; however, special cases may be accommodated in favor of public
service. Meanwhile, this norm prohibits actions reflected in the following Sections of
Republic Act No. 3019:
Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving
any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the
discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest
partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This provision shall
apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged
with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions. (Section 3e, RA 3019)
c. Efficiency Norms
It is defined as the delivery of service at the least time and with the least cost as
possible. RA 3019 indicates that unreasonable delay in the delivery of public services in
favor of the public officials is prohibited:
Neglecting or refusing, after due demand or request, without sufficient
justification, to act within a reasonable time on any matter pending before him for
the purpose of obtaining, directly or indirectly, from any person interested in the
matter some pecuniary or material benefit or advantage, or for the purpose of
favoring his own interest or giving undue advantage in favor of or discriminating
against any other interested party. (Section 3f, RA 3019)
d. Technical Norms
The norm upholds a public officials technical or professional standards in dealing
with clients. Negative behaviors that violate the technical norm are reflected on Sections
3(g) and 3(j) of Republic Act No. 3019:


Section 3(g):
Entering, on behalf of the Government, into any contract or transaction
manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same, whether or not the public
officer profited or will profit thereby.
Section 3(j):
Knowingly approving or granting any license, permit, privilege or benefit in
favor of any person not qualified for or not legally entitled to such license, permit,
privilege or advantage, or of a mere representative or dummy of one who is not so
qualified or entitled.
e. Jurisdictional Norms
This norm upholds that the public official must carry out tasks within his/her
respective functions or jurisdiction. Section 3(a) of Republic Act No. 3019 states that:
Persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act
constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent
authority or an offense in connection with the official duties of the latter, or
allowing himself to be persuaded, induced, or influenced to commit such violation
or offense.


This norm adheres to one of Webers principles of structural arrangements, which

is separation of office from a person. This norm declares that a public official must
address conflicts of interests that may hinder him/her from carrying out his/her functions
in office (e.g. family relations, private gains), as what is described in Sections 3(h) and (i)
of RA 3019:
Section 3(h)
Directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business,
contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his
official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from
having any interest.
Section 3(i)
Directly or indirectly becoming interested, for personal gain, or having a
material interest in any transaction or act requiring the approval of a board, panel
or group of which he is a member, and which exercises discretion in such approval,
even if he votes against the same or does not participate in the action of the
board, committee, panel or group.


g. Secrecy
Under the norm of secrecy, the public official is mandated to keep official secrets
confidential to preserve its power, or to avoid giving undue advantage to a particular
client, as stated in Section 3(k) of RA 3019:
Divulging valuable information of a confidential character, acquired by his
office or by him on account of his official position to unauthorized persons, or
releasing such information in advance of its authorized release date.
RA 3019 is just one of the many anti-corruption laws in the country, which are
deemed as having a public-office orientationthat is, our laws against corruption focus
more on bureaucratic practices and compliance to rules, those dictated by Coopers
notion of regime values, above other normative foundations of ethics. By examining the
nature of our cultural values, we find a conflict between legal and cultural norms.
Cario (1979) asserted that Filipino culture is characterized by particularism,
ascription and diffuseness. The Filipino is viewed as a system rather than as part of the
system. He/She is defined by personalities; thus, by giving or denying a person services,
the public official has in turn refused the client his/her integrity, family background, etc.
(and, by virtue of hiya and utang na loob, it is considered rude to refuse someones
requests). As such, in dealing with the citizens, the bureaucrat must consider all aspects
of the client, including his/her networks and linkages. This may be the reason why
relational/parochial interests prevail over general/common interests in the delivery of
public services.
This is where the conflict between law and culture emerges.

The Filipino bureaucrat typically puts much value on his/her relationship with
relatives, friends, neighbors and other personal networks, thus deviating from Webers
ideal type of a bureaucrat. Personalism can be discordant in bureaucracy where relations
are supposed to be governed by institutional rules and general interest rather than
particularistic considerations (Cario, 1979). Table 1 illustrates the possible scenarios of
ideal, acceptable and unacceptable behavior according to bureaucratic-legal norms may
be unacceptable in terms of cultural ethical norms, and vice versa.
Table 1. Bureaucratic-legal and cultural-ethical norms by types of acceptable
behavior (Carino, 1979).
Bureaucratic-Legal Norms
No example. Law
Utang na loob
Utang na loob shown
does not require
shown in extraby bureaucrat by
utang na loob to be
giving unfair
situations and
advantage to alter



Utang na loob
shown only where it
does not hurt other


Treating alter like

anybody else (e.g.
abstaining from
decision on grounds
of conflict of

Introducing alter to
agency personnel
to help dispel
strangeness of
endorsement or
Abstaining from
decision affecting
alter (after due
suggestion from

Utang na loob shown

by giving confidential
information or
endorsing alter but
without directly
deciding or
persuading decisionmaker to rule in his
True corruption
when a person does
not show utang na
loob, deviation from
law will have other

In the above table, Cario used the practice of utang na loob in terms of
bureaucratic-legal and cultural-ethical norms to best illustrate the congruencies and
discord between the two normative perspectives. The table basically points out that what
may be ideal or acceptable in law may not be ideal or acceptable in culture or practice,
and vice versa. Some of the cases of illegal bureaucratic behavior being treated as
culturally acceptable are the following: 1) praising corrupt officials for accumulating
wealth and being stealthy about it; and 2) praising Robin Hood officials who had the
opportunity to share their illegally-amassed wealth to others.
However, there are certain congruencies in areas, where both the law and the
culture consider the behavior of a public official acceptable and unacceptable. For
instance, the fact that corruption (which is illegal according to law) puts a public official in
the hall of shame (which is culturally-driven) proves that somewhat there are areas where
both aspects can agree with each other. Another common juncture between legal and
cultural norms is found when, for example, granting of favors disregards another Filipino
valuepagkakapantay-pantay or equality.
Cario finally argues that in general, the root of negative bureaucratic behavior
that is certainly both legally and culturally unacceptablethat is, the greed for money
and powerultimately point to lack of law enforcement and free market conditions as
factors contributing to persistent corruption in the Philippines. There is thus a need to
strengthen accountability and audit mechanisms that prevent negative bureaucratic
practices. Moreover, regardless of the cultural traditions, we Filipinos should begin to
acknowledge and accept legal standards of bureaucratic behavior if we are to indeed
eradicate corruption. As Co (2005) wrote, we should embrace a culture of rules.
Evolution of ethics in public governance



The Reinventing Government movement ushered in by Osborne and Gaebler has
transformed the public sector from being rule-bound, machine-like and hierarchic towards
being market-oriented. While the paradigm has paved way for innovations in public
administration, in some ways, this movement has affected ethical standards in public
governance which transformed the ethical foundations to commercial values (Haque,
According to Haque (1999), one of the major features of this ethical shift was
consideration of citizens as consumers, thus equating citizen satisfaction with consumer
satisfaction. This transformed traditional public administration into public management,
leaning towards managerialism as opposed to post-war concept of citizenship, which was
viewed as a value of democracy pertaining to social, political and civil rights.
Subsequently, there emerged the shift from traditional principles of public welfare to the
commercial norm of value for money public sector reforms in developed and developing
nations. The paradigm also narrowed the gap between public and private administration,
eventually introducing public-private partnership, on one hand, and compromising
impartiality and neutrality, on the other. The ultimate goal of economic efficiency
redirected government programs towards trade and industry and deprioritized antipoverty programs. Finally, the paradigm encouraged managerial autonomy in decisionmaking, therefore challenging the ethics of public accountability based on peoples
control over governance (Haque, 1999).
This begs the question, What kind of accountability does the public sector really
need? Is it managerial accountability, people-based accountability, or the best of both
worlds? In the succeeding section, the concept of accountability and its different forms
will be discussed. We will then be guided by a particular framework of accountability that
links political and administrative processes, thereby strengthening the involvement of
citizens in exacting accountability from bureaucrats and political officials.
Accountability is one of the principles espoused by the United Nations in its good
governance paradigm. It is deemed essential in containing or eradicating negative
bureaucratic behavior and ensuring institutional integrity. As technology develops and
more complex administrative problems arise in the public sector, new tools for ensuring
accountability are constantly being developed to impose greater responsibility over public
officials in their roles and functions, to monitor bureaucratic practices and guard against
negative bureaucratic behavior. In this section, we will be looking at the nature and
scope of accountability, the types of accountability, and more importantly, issues that
confront the practice of accountability in the public sector.
What is accountability?
There exist many definitions of accountability in the literature of governance and
public administration. The World Bank (undated) and Ebrahim (2003) both define
accountability as a relational dynamic between two individuals or agencies in terms of
two aspects: answerability, wherein individuals or agencies inform or justify their actions


to the inquiring body; and enforcement, which involves sanctioning, guiding or rewarding
individuals or agencies for their actions (or lack thereof). Cario (1983), Wang (2001),
Cendon (2000) and Lindberg (2013) all refer to accountability as a product or function of
the following dimensions, which will be useful upon discussion of the forms of
1) The person/institution being held into account (agent);
2) The person/agency to whom the agent is to give account (principal), which may be
internal or external to the agent;
3) The content or subject matter for which the agent is accountable;
4) Mechanisms that ensure answerability and enforcement, which would depend on
the degree and direction of control; and
5) Accountability effects or outcomes.
Types of accountability
For the purpose of this report, the discussion of accountability will focus on the
typologies by Cario (1983) and Cendon (2000), with emphasis on Carios typologies of
administrative accountability. These forms will be classified according to the following: 1)
principal or source of accountability; 2) agent; 3) content subject to accountability; 4)
accountability mechanisms; and 5) accountability outcomes or consequences. The
typologies will also be described based on Lindbergs (2013) additional dimensions:
degree of control and spatial direction. The former refers to the rigor of monitoring and
evaluation mechanisms used and the amount of information required in ensuring
accountability; while spatial direction is related to the source of accountability. In
particular, it is upward in nature if service users or shareholders hold higher authorities
accountable; downward if higher authorities hold lower-level employees accountable; and
horizontal if accountability is among peers in a single organizational level (Lindberg,
As discussed earlier, the source, content and mechanisms of accountability vary on
the nature of the parties involved, the roles that they play in the accountability
relationship and the external environment under which the relationship works. As such, a
single institution or individual may be accountable under two or more types of
accountability, depending on the circumstances. Table 2 shows the different types of
accountability and their characteristics.
Political accountability
According to Cendon (2000) political accountability ensures that decisions or
actions made by public employees are aligned with the programmatic or political agenda
currently put in place by the government (or what is loosely assumed as the will of the
people). The focus of political accountability is therefore on ideally meeting the
expectations of the elected official who in turn represents the needs and interests of the


Political accountability assumes both vertical and horizontal dimensions. Vertically,
political accountability relates high-ranking authorities and lower-level bureaucrats with
one another. Horizontally, political accountability links high-ranking officials with one
another through the legislative branch; in a presidential form of government, the role of
lawmakers is limited to appointing officials and, in special cases, impeaching them.
Political accountability is mainly measured through technical standards as well as value
judgments and political considerations (Cendon, 2000).
Lindberg (2013) points out that political accountability typically has the lowest
degree of control. First, rules or standards for attaining accountability are somewhat
general in scope, allowing for more flexibility and wider discretion among lower-level
bureaucrats. Second, political officials have relatively little control over bureaucracies
mainly due to time and skill constraints as well as conflicts of interest. As a result,
officials are likely to leave important decisions to bureaucrats. In the long run, however,
bureaucrats may capture the decisions of political officials, especially when there is lack
of discernment or accountability on part of the officials. On the other hand, under heavy
political influence, bureaucrats may be used as tools to further political agenda (Alfiler,
2003; Lindberg, 2013).
Administrative accountability
According to Cendon (2000), administrative accountability focuses on the level of
compliance with administrative rules and procedures, as well as legal and functional
strictures on the efficient use of resources. Values and standards for this form of
accountability are hinged on the constitutional or legal framework of the state, which
usually governs public offices and guarantees the citizen equal treatment and clear
relationship boundaries with the state. It is also characterized by neutrality. Cendon
explains that public employees must be willing to work with different government
agencies and commit to government programs regardless of political or ideological bias.
Professional accountability
Under professional accountability, public employees equipped with the
competence and skills to address the problem first-hand are accountable for their
faculties in carrying out their functions and to the authorities that entrusted them these
functions (Lindberg, 2013). In professional accountability, it is important to keep the
principal (e.g. the higher-level bureaucrat or political official) well-informed of the agents
performance, especially when the principal is inexperienced in the field being handled by
the subordinates (Romzek & Dubnick, 1987). Otherwise, there will be low degree of
control involved in maintaining professional accountability.
How is professional accountability addressed? Cendon (2000) refers to the concept
as an oversight on activities conducted by professionals with the appropriate skills or
expertise to achieve organizational or program goals and objectives. Thus, there is
greater emphasis on the respect for and compliance with professional ethics and


standards of a particular field. Whether or not professional accountability is linked with
administrative accountability remains a point of contention, since professional standards
may, in some cases, be different with administrative standards.
Democratic accountability
Democratic accountability establishes the link between public administration and
society as an active participant in the accountability relationship. This implies that the
administrative system must not only be able to garner support and acceptance from the
society in its actions and decisions, but it should also be able to hold the administrative
system accountable for addressing their needs and interests. This type of accountability
does not require a specific formal or legal framework (Cendon, 2000), although the
Constitution itself provides for principles such as the freedom of speech, freedom of
assembly and notion of public interest.
Cendons concept of democratic accountability is parallel to the concept of
societal accountability and representative accountability as explained by Lindberg
(2013), wherein citizens, through the media, Church and other interest groups, informally
assume the role of the principal in the accountability relationship. The source of control
of democratic accountability is thus external to the administrative system, coming from
the citizens themselves. However, how much citizen control is needed is derived from
two factors: 1) the scale of action required to ensure accountability; and 2) whether or
not government agencies facilitate considerable citizen control (Lindberg, 2013).

Forms of Accountability
-Acting following the
-Acting in full compliance with
political and
the legally established rules
programmatic provisions
and procedures
adopted by the
Internal accountability, to whom?
-Superior political authority
-Superior political authority
-Superior administrative organ or authority
-Superior professional organ or authority (technical evaluation)


-Acting in full
compliance with the
technical rules and
practices of the

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