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Transparency and Accountability as Worthy Principle of Public Policy

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For this assignment, which is justifying contributions to the development of the poster for the 10 principles of a good public policy, five peer-reviewed articles that discuss the principle of transparency and accountability as a worthy principle of a good public policy were selected.

These principles were selected using a working hypothesis, thus, openness is a key element for the formulation of good public policy. This hypothesis helped me to lunch exploratory research studies (theoretical framework) and to critically deduce what ought to be considered as a good principle for public policy. My discovery from the exploratory research revealed several principles that could be considered in the formulation of a good public policy. However, keywords such as transparency and accountability were used. Purposive sampling technique using a criterion-based selection was employed. A content analysis was done and several case studies reviewed concerning public policy and public administration.

A content analysis technique was used to make replicable and valid inferences by interpreting and grouping the textual materials. A case study analysis was also conducted to determine certain situations under which these principles may not be applicable and how to come up with the best possible strategies in achieving a best-anticipated outcome. A specific and well-thought-out theoretical framework made me settle on transparency and accountability as my distinctive principle for inclusion in the 10 principles of good policy poster. This principle was subjected to my group’s approval before being included on the poster.

Below are discussions of summaries of knowledge deduced from the five peer-reviewed articles that influenced my contributions to the poster.


For every nation to thrive democratically, transparency and accountability are key components that should not be overlooked in its administrative setup. When a system becomes so transparent, with established processes of ensuring accountability, both political and civil actors in democratic establishments are likely to become responsible and accountable to the people.

In our contemporary political dispensation, transparency and accountability have become a fundamental principle for the democratic edict. In this sense, countries where democracy reigns should promote an opening of the political system to make it more transparent and, in turn, more subjected to public evaluation (Filgueiras, 2016). Vayena and colleagues (2018) support Filgueiras’s point by stating that these principles are very essential in the development and sustainability of public trust.

Establishing good governance and restoring public confidence does take more than transparency alone. There has to be another side of participation. Good governance brings along respect to human rights, the rule of law, effective people participation in development, as well as transparent and accountable processes and institutions (Konrad, 2011). Thus, the government must produce a conducive environment for the public to participate in almost all sectors or stages of development, from planning, actualization, monitoring, and evaluation. It requires a breakthrough to enhance public transparency. In the administration study, Osborn and Gaebler (1993) offer an approach where the government must spare space for community participation for development (Wirutomo, 2011). This can be done by innovation as a way to make public institutions more transparent and participatory. It is true, though, that there is still a small room for the public to provide input on development planning. As a further reflection of democratization and participation as part of good governance, the development planning process should also be carried out through a participatory process.


The birthing of transparency and accountability initiatives have come to stay and is a donor collaborative committed to strengthening democracy and development through empowering citizens to hold their governing institutions accountable (

According to Heald (2012), two types of transparency are highly regarded in the field of public policy, namely: event transparency and process transparency. He further posits that the event transparency has is associated with the transformation of inputs into outputs and outcomes, on the assumption that these can be measured and the process transparency, includes a distinction between procedural and operational aspects. Bringing both types of transparency in the financial arena, Heald argues that although very significant, it may be very tough to achieve. It, therefore, requires robust strategies emanating from the different contexts to deal with it. Achieving financial transparency in the public setting involves separating technical intricacies from political processes, which requires clear strategies in realizing that objectives. This assertion shows how transparency in public expenditure is achieved and the challenges that accompany it. We cannot separate politics from public policy, even though political influences could disrupt its effectiveness.

Concerning the healthcare sector, Adinolfi (2017) argues that when transparency is given too much power, it might have repercussions thus, it is prudent to have the right balance between transparency and confidentiality.

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Transparency and accountability, like other principles, have their barriers. Whereas Etzioni (2010) points out challenges associated with transparency, no concrete solutions were provided. However, barriers associated with transparency in public expenditure, mostly constructed by policy actors were identified (Heald, 2012) making it easy to propose effective solutions in handling such cases. Adinolfi (2017) views the effect of transparency on institutions as upsetting and proposes a perfect solution to improve relations between transparency and actors with an equal aim of achieving its objectives in healthcare.

The new public management approach advocates systemic transparency, accountability, and innovation to spearhead good governance. The effectiveness of the public good involves transparency and accountability of processes coupled with the availability of information through the policy cycle. However, when citizens are fed with information that is not well understood or interpreted and processes shredded in secrecy, it is merely informing and could result in public distrust. Etzioni (2010) argues that food processing companies provide the nutritional content of products as the policy direction for consumers to make informed choices but not the processes involved. More so, this information provided is in technical terms that most consumers cannot interpret. Thus, the purpose of providing information to consumers is flawed. Since transparency and accountability are tools to gain public trust, the information provided must be realistic for public consumption. However, the legitimacy of the information provided to the public could also be delayed or withheld by actors would do not feel accountable to the public thereby, derailing the intended purpose for which the information is being made public.

Filgueiras in his article titled ‘Transparency and Accountability: Principles and Rules for the Construction of Publicity’ argues that increasing delinquencies of the public worker or civil servant warrant the introduction of a transparency policy to submit the government and its representatives to the public control. He was also quick to state that although transparency presents itself as a remedy for the vices and unacceptable practice in politics and in public management control, without working hand-in-hand with the principle of accountability, it cannot fully achieve its purpose for implementation. The concept of transparency, although viewed as a tool used in achieving public good and vital for public policy formulation, Etzioni and observes that it’s been overhyped and its objectives are not always attainable despite the associated good intentions.

According to Barnard (2001), accountability is a principle of basing decisions upon laws and policies within a democratic state. This principle has a strong moral appeal since it affords both the government and the citizenry to watch and control each order. Accountability can take the form of accounting process of rendering accounts or by taking place in a dimension of electoral democracy.

Bovens (2007) defines accountability as a social relationship in which an actor feels an obligation to explain and justify his or her conduct to some significant other. Argyrous (2012) views it as the starting point for the more demanding standard of accountability. He asserts that without transparency there can be little accountability; and states that about evidence-based policy (EBP), accountability involves subjecting the process of gathering, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting evidence to scrutiny so that it can be verified as credible. Gathering, analyzing, interpreting and presenting evidence require a series of detailed judgments on the part of the analyst, many of which could affect the findings (Argyrous, 2012).

As stated by Filgueiras (2016), the culture of secrecy, on the other hand, erodes the democratic process insofar as it is opposed to the very notion of democracy. Thompson (1999), posits that there is an estimated creation of three and a half million new secrets a year within the US state. Although frown upon, secrecy is a common phenomenon in most institutions and even democratic states across the globe. Thompson (1999) argues, that despite its acclaimed negativities, some amount of it may be acceptable as some policies necessitate secrecy and no transparency. Typical examples include police investigations, economic decisions on interest rates and financial policy and the fight against drug trafficking, fight on terrorism, etc.

Filgueiras (2016) however questions the transparency and accountability principle of public policy and advocates a different approach towards the democratization of the country, which is the policy of publicity. He argues that the transparency and accountability principle does not extend to tying government decisions to the authority of citizenship, either through institutions or through the participation of society itself in public choices and decisions. In his defense, the publicity principle which he has proposed rightly does so.

In the article ‘Evidence-Based Policy: Principles of Transparency and Accountability’, Argyrous (2012) provides a practical guide for improving the quality of the evidence-based policy. He observes, that evidence drawn from any methodology will improve if standards of transparency and accountability are followed in the process of gathering, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting evidence for policy. He further states that in order to make an evidence-based policy more transparent, the is the need to make the following available; raw data, data collection instrument, metadata, analytical assumptions explicit, analytical choices and their testing explicit, theoretical perspectives explicit, the relationship with past research explicit, and declare financial and other interests.

In an attempt to achieve these principles in public policy, Argyrous (2012) that these principles for transparency and accountability can be achieved through several means. The onus of implementing them rests partly with the producers of evidence in the policy realm, who must adopt these principles as practice. This is not solely at the individual level of the public servant, but also requires agencies to adopt these principles to develop a culture of evidence-based policy-making. Check-lists can be developed for any program or policy proposals to ensure these principles have been implemented before approval is granted. He, however, cautions that we must acknowledge, that the extent to which these standards of transparency and accountability are to be followed in any given context depends upon practical and ethical considerations.

Argyrous (2012) concludes by arguing that transparency and accountability, will continue to advance the quality of evidence, but they may also help explain the legitimate channels through which these other factors such as the political context of decision-making enter the decision-making process, and by implication, the channels that are not legitimate.


In conclusion, transparency and accountability are essential for public policy formation. As highlighted in the articles above, these principles have good intentions felt in the public policy discourse when it comes to the formulation of public policies in most democratically governed states. However, most of the authors have also pointed out that it can do more harm than good when their operations are not regulated to achieve its set targets. Arguably, I agree with the authors that not all information is safe for public consumption and not all processes can be subjected to public scrutiny as these might have dire consequences for a state than the public good. At the same time, I believe that some amount of it is good for the public in maintaining some level of trust in the actors entrusted with the power to make policies for the well-being of citizens.


  1. Ackerman, John M., and Irma E. Sandoval-Ballesteros. ‘The Global Explosion of Freedom of Information Laws’. Admin. L. Rev. 58 (2006): 85.
  2. Adinolfi, Paola. ‘Transparency and Spending Review: A Model for Italian Healthcare’. Symphonya. Emerging Issues in Management 2 (2017): 120-134. .
  3. Banisar, David. ‘Freedom of Information Around the World 2006: A Global Survey of Access to Government Information Laws’. Privacy International (2006).
  4. Berliner, Daniel. ‘The Political Origins of Transparency’. The Journal of Politics 76, no. 2 (2014): 479-491. DOI: 10.1017/S0022381613001412 .
  5. Epperly, Brad. ‘The Provision of Insurance? Judicial Independence and the Post-Tenure Fate of Leaders’. Journal of Law and Courts 1, no. 2 (2013): 247-278.
  6. Etzioni, Amitai. ‘Is Transparency the Best Disinfectant?’. Journal of Political Philosophy 18, no. 4 (2010): 389-404. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9760.2010.00366.x.
  7. Florini, Ann. ‘The Right to Know: Transparency for an Open World’. Columbia University Press, 2007.
  8. Ginsburg, Tom. ‘Judicial Review in New Democracies: Constitutional Courts in Asian Cases’. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  9. Heald, David. ‘Why Is Transparency About Public Expenditure So Elusive?’. International review of administrative sciences 78, no. 1 (2012): 30-49. DOI: 10.1177/0020852311429931.
  10. Vayena, Effy, Joan Dzenowagis, John S. Brownstein, and Aziz Sheikh. ‘Policy Implications of big data in the health sector.’ Bulletin of the World Health Organization 96, no. 1 (2018): 66.
  11. Thompson D. 1999. ‘Democratic Secrecy’. Political Science Quarterly 114(2): 181–193.
  12. Konrad, Adenauer-Stiftung. 2011. ‘Concepts and Principles of Democratic Governance and Accountability: A Guide for Peer Educators’. Africa: Uganda Office.
  13. Wirutomo, Paulus. ‘Social Development Policies on Informal Sector in Solo’. Jurnal Ilmu Administrasi dan Organisasi, Bisnis & Birokrasi. Vol. 18, No. 2 (May).
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