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What is accountability?


The duty owed by elected politicians and public servants who are responsible for the procedural and substantive merit of their decision making and are called upon to abide by the concepts of ministerial responsibility, rule of law and social responsiveness
- was defined in the Final Report of 1979 Royal Commission on Financial Management and Accountability, the fundamental prerequisite for preventing the abuse of delegated power and for ensuring, instead, that power is directed toward the achievement of broadly accepted national goals with the greatest degree of efficiency, effectiveness, probity and prudence


what is ministerial accountability?

  • is a constitutional convention, which means it is not a law, but a set of rules established over time that political actors are obliged to follow, while it is unwritten, there are expectations to live up to the spirit behind the convention, beauty of unwritten constitutional conventions is that they can easily evolve
  • it is both collective and individual
  • not absolute as responsibility for different elements of activity in a department or agency may be delegated, assigned, or shared and, legislation often specifies which roles and responsibilities may or will be designated to deputy minister, agency heads, or Crown Corporation executives

Why is ministerial accountability understood as a bargain?


Bargain between public servants and cabinet minister

  • bargain recognized that public servants are professional, neutral, non-partisan, loyal to government, have security of tenure and are anonymous
  • public servants are not publicly accountable or answerable for the actions of the government, it is ministers who are held accountable
  • there is no distinction between responsibility for policy and responsibility for administrations, ministers are responsible for both

What responsibilities are assigned to public servants?

  • provide fearless advice to and loyally implement decisions made by, elected officials
  • responsible for managing other public servants
  • updating ministers on current events
  • holding consultation with citizens among other responsibilities

Anonymity for public servants?

  • is not absolute
  • do appear before parliamentary committees
  • interact with the public directly through consultation
  • the requirement that public servants do not speak publicly to defend or promote government policies is a fundamental principle of democracy

What is individual ministerial responsibility?


Ministers are individually responsible for the powers and authorities granted to them by enabling legislation

  • ministers have statutory authority over their departments and are responsible for how they exercise tat authority and power
  • accountable for all decisions made by the department while they are in charge
  • Individual ministerial accountability refers to the responsibility of the minister, as the political head of a department to answer to the legislature and, through the legislature, to the public both for his or her personal acts and for those acts of departmental subordinates

What is the Doctrine of Ministerial Responsibility?

  • requires that ministers provide an account, take responsibility, and answer questions about the problems that arise
  • can be though of as encompassing three interrelated ideas about authority, duties and responsibilities that are assigned to a minister under Canada’s system of parliamentary government
    1) Responsibility
    2) Accountability
    3) Answerability
  • the doctrine does not automatically require a minister to resign when a bad decision is made

What is meant by responsibility (ministerial responsibility)?


refers to the requirement that ministers carry out their duties and obligation as assigned to them


What is meant by accountability (ministerial responsibility)?


A minister must provide an account to Parliament and/or the Prime Minister (and to the courts as needed)


What is answerability (ministerial responsibility)?


Means that a minister have a responsibility to inform and explain the actions or inaction of department or agency, whether that is through Parliament, Committees of Parliament or to the Public


What does it mean when we discuss naming, blaming, shaming


is what some people call ministerial responsibility
- the idea behind this is that the idea of accountability means we need to be able to name the person who is to blame for a problem


When do we hear call’s for a ministers resignation?

  • When something bad happens
  • financial mismanagement
  • department issues
  • error in judgement

what is collective ministerial responsibility?


All minister together support all cabinet decisions and actions

  • all for one and one for all
  • individual minister may propose department policy but other members can giver their input or dispose
  • want all ministers to come to a consensus rather than be divided
  • is related to cabinet solidarity, whereby cabinet must publicly support the decisions of the cabinet, even if they may privately disagree
  • ministers are responsible for all policy and program decisions made by cabinet on behalf of governemnt

What are constitutional conventions?


Unwritten rules of the constitution that are binding amongst political actor (not enforced through the legal system)

  • under the constitutional convention of responsible government, minister of the Crown exercise the powers of the Crown, meaning they are responsible, individually and collectively, to the prime minister and the elected House of Commons
  • Ministerial Accountability is a constitutional convention, which means it is not a law, but a set of rules established over time that political actors are obliged to follow
  • constitutional conventions like ministerial accountability can evolve to reflect changes in society and governance, but if public apathy continue, the doctrine may evolve in such a way that it does a disservice to citizens and to democracy

What is ethics?


The concept of appropriate forms of political and bureaucratic decision making within government. The basic principles of government ethics stress that politicians and public servants are to undertake their duties in light of serving the public interest, maintaining fidelity to law, and avoiding having their private interests interfere with their public duties

  • A form of accountability comes in the form of ethics
  • often these values such as serving the public interest are framed in the Code of Ethics and they attempt to prevent poor outcomes by outlining and guiding both civil servants and politicians and what is appropriate and what is inappropriate

What are some government ethics that are a matter of social consensus?

  • those in government should not lie, cheat, steal, embezzle
  • do not place private interest above the public interest
  • they should be law abiding
  • they should respect nd support the dominant and Canadian political ideals of democracy, equality, liberty and individual human rights while responding to the interests of the society as whole, as expressed through the democratic political process

what is the Codes of Ethics?


the most common form to address concerns about misbehaviour in government has been to draft codes of ethic to control conflicts of interest


what are some of the different functions of Codes of Ethics?

  • prohibit public servants to receive gifts
  • prohibit public official from engaging in outside employment that might directly affect their ability to undertake their public duties
  • restriction on subsequent employment to public service
  • they can regulate contact between government officials

The overall enforcement of these codes vary from one jurisdiction to another


Who applies Ethics rules?


An ethics counsellor who is appointed by the prime minister

  • they are responsible for applying the guideline who reports solely to the PM
  • the Office of the Ethics Commissioner was established in 2004 by PM Martin

What is the Federal Accountability Act?


When Stephen Harper became PM in 2006, his first legislative action was the passage of this act

  • banned institutional and large personal donations to political parties
  • increasing auditing
  • creating the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

What is the Conflict on Interest and Ethics Commissioner?


Established in 2007, under the Federal Accountability Act
the commissioner is an officer of parliament whose duty is to oversee the application of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons and the Conflict of Interest Act. the office provides counselling on proper compliance for those covered by these laws. When requested to by MPs, the commissioner can also conduct inquiries into the behaviour of officials subject to the laws


What is the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons?


establishes the rules and standards of ethics for members of parliament


What is the Conflict of Interest Act?


Applies to approximately 2,800 full- and part- time appointees to the Government of Canada and thus governs the actions of senior officials, both elected and appointed, and partisan advisers hired by ministers to assist them in communications and message management, constituency work, and policy development


What is the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service?


When it comes to enforcing the ethical standards on the general rank and file of public service, jurisdiction is usually given to senior managers within the specified department or agency

  • must be consistent with the Public Service Commission
  • intended to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the public service and sets out a framework informed by the ideals of democratic responsibility, professionalism, ethical behaviour and respect for values
  • the code defines conflicts of interest and how to avoid them or resolve them once they arise, also describes the requirements for disclosure of private assets and liabilities

What is the PSLRB?


The Public Service Labour Relations Board

  • they are responsible for enforcement of collective agreement and grievance procedures
  • if a manager wants to discipline an employee for a Violation of the Values and Ethics Code, the disciplinary measures must be consistent with the PSLRB

What are some examples of ethic dilemmas in Canadian governance?

  • Accepting money and gifts
  • making personal use of government facilities
  • misrepresenting the truth
  • pursuing unpopular policy
  • violating confidentiality

What is political representativeness?

  • A principle of accountability stipulating that cabinet ministers and public servants must be responsive to the rules of individual and collective ministerial responsibility in the exercise of administrative and executive authority
  • Under this column is the concept of ministerial responsibility and all its underlying principles

what is legal representativeness/responsiveness?

  • A principle of accountability stipulating that cabinet ministers and public servants must be responsive to the rules of administrative law in the exercise of administrative and executive authority
  • Under this column is the rule of law
  • many government officials are called upon each day to make important decisions
  • they are an administrative tribunal

What is an administrative tribunal?


A generic term given to agencies, boards, and commissions that possess both policy development and program implementation responsibilities, as well as legal powers to resolve disputes arising from the application of their powers. These bodies are often referred to as quasi-judicial tribunals in that their roles are half administrative and half adjudicative. Classic examples are labour relations boards, workers compensation boards, and human rights commissions. Tribunals are subject to the rules of administrative law


What is social responsiveness?

  • A principle of accountability stipulating that cabinet minister and public servants must be responsive to the broad social needs and interests of the communities they serve in the exercise of administrative and executive authority
  • core concept that underpins this is the public interest
  • while this approach to accountability is controversial, it remains important
  • Controversy arises when the following questions are addressed
    1) What is the public interest?
    2) Is there one unified public interest or are there many?

What is a case study that is a prime example to the key issues of ministerial responsibility?


Bev Oda


What is objective responsibility?

  • connotes the responsibility of a person or an organization to someone else, outside of self, for some thing or some kind of performance. It is closely akin to accountability or answerability. If one fails to carry out legitimate directive, he is judged responsible and may be subjected to penalties
  • entails rules and regulation that directly establish lines of communication, obligation, and control within government
  • officials are assigned duties to perform and objectives to achieve, and their performance will be measured
  • success will be rewarded and failure criticized or punished

What is subjective responsibility?


Directs attention not upon whom and for what one is responsible (according to law and the organization chart) but to whom and for what one ‘feels’ responsible and ‘behaves’ responsibly. This meaning whish is sometimes described as ‘personal’ responsibility, is more nearly synonymous with identification, loyalty, and conscience than it is with accountability and answerability


What are formal lines of control?


Important to any accountability system, officials need to know where they stand with respect to obligations


what are informal controls?

  • A shared value system of ideals and standards, accepted by public servants as the foundation for their decision making, is a basic requirement of any public service
  • Nurtures and respects informal lines of control and responsibility, as officials develop moral obligations and expectations in relation to other actors and forces in the political system
  • Public servants develop an informal loyalty to or identification with the media and social interest groups

What is indirect responsibility?


Current opinion is that a minister must remain answerable to parliament but not be held directly responsible for actions in which they did not play a direct role
- the disciplinary system will deal with those who were directly responsible
- A point is often made that a minister cannot be expected to double check the work of everyone within their department but must trust them to do sound work
- ministers are seldom called upon to resign for policy and administrative malpractice, even when strong evidence suggest that they were either aware of it
Ex. John Fraser


What is direct responsibility?

  • ministers are expected to resign if they are directly implicated in allegations of personal wrongdoing
    Ex. Helena Guergis

What are Ombud’s offices?


they are a multifaceted initiative to promote accountability

  • they function as a complaint bureau to which citizens can bring grievances about how they have been treated by those in the public service
  • the staff have legislative authority to investigate complaints but no legislative power to quash a questionable decision or to order that a new one be made
  • not established at the federal with the exception for the military

What are special officers?


In 2006, Harper said to improve accountability his government would create two special institutions to uphold clarity, openness, and responsiveness

  • New Parliamentary Budget Officer
  • Public Sector Integrity Commissioner

What is the New Parliamentary Budget Officer?


They are to provide impartial professional assessments of federal budgetary planning documents and financial management policies and programs
- Mandate is to provide independent and objective analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation’s finances, the governments estimates and trends in the Canadian economy; and upon request from a committee or parliamentarian, to estimate the financial cost of any proposal for matters over which parliament has jurisdiction
- The office produces scores of reports every year in response to queries from MPs and parliamentary committees
- They quickly found themselves in political controversy
• The parliamentary officer began to question the federal governments budget spending
- It does do its job by giving parliament, the media, and Canadians themselves vital information to hold the government to account


What is the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner?


They would provide public servants with a confidential channel through which to make allegations of wrongdoing within the federal government
- Provided information and guidance to those considering making a complaint
- Encouraging efforts to make the federal public service a workplace where employees can raise their concerns about ethics openly
- Not as good of a reputation than the PBO
- The first commissioner was Christiane Ouimet, an audit found that she had behaved unprofessionally with staff at the PSIC, retaliated against those she thought had filed complaints against her and had failed to perform mandated actions
- They received over 200 disclosures of alleged wrongdoing yet only five investigations were launched
- In the later years, the PSIC became more effective, in 2014-2015 had over 160 complaints, initiated 34 investigations resulting in 5 cases of ethical violations
- These figures reveal that public servants feel comfortable going to the PSCI and that they will investigate serious cases
• Ex. 2014-15, the chief executive officer of Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, a federal crown corporation, was found to have violated his organization’s code of conduct by appointing four persons with close ties to the federal conservative party to senior executive positions in the organization
- The result was the removal of the CEO from his position and the disestablishment of ECBC