CCA Purpose

How the web site works

Concepts and Terms

Why We Need Public Accountability

Principles of Accountability

Standards for Public Answering

Legislating Accountability

The Equity Statement

Steps in Holding to Account

CCA Blog

Citizen Audit

CCA Convenors

Journal of Public Accountability

Contact Us


A Citizen's Guide to Public Accountability

Click here to learn more about this book and its author from Trafford Publishing

A Citizen's Guide to Public Accountability:
Changing the Relationship Between Citizens and Authorities


Outline of the Citizen's Guide (Trafford, 2002)


Foreword by Dr. Ursula Franklin, C.C. FRSC

(Dr. Franklin's Foreword emphasizes that effective holding to account will require "a large number of public steps" but that achieving public answering for the discharge of trust and responsibility will reveal both good practices and what to avoid.)


(This gives the objectives of the Guide: what can be done to achieve adequate public answering that can limit harm in society)


The State We're In
What Does Holding to Account Mean?

(The Introduction is a statement of the problem and a summary of what public accountability is and is not and why it is an imperative in society. It is also written as a summary of the Guide's messages that can be photocopied without restriction.)



Chapter 1 Four Horror Stories

Case 1. The Blood Disgrace
Case 2. The Westray Mine
Case 3. The Herald of Free Enterprise
Case 4. The Court Martial

(These cases illustrate what can happen when authorities don't answer before the fact and state their intentions, reasoning and performance standards for the prevention of harm. The chapter's introduction defines basic terms used throughout the Guide that relate to responsibilities.)

Chapter 2 What Public Accountability Means

Public Accountability
Holding to Account
Why We Must Hold to Account
Applying the Precautionary Principle to Accountability
The Components of Reasonable Public Answering
Validating the Answering
Why We Lack Public Answering
When There Is No Time...

(The chapter explains the concept of public accountability and why we need it, and what is meant by reasonable public answering and holding to account. It argues that holding to account is simply the application of the precautionary principle to civics, and that the most important answering must be validated. The chapter argues that, since the requirement to answer publicly is non-partisan and tells no one what to do, it is an unassailable requirement but one which can be expected to exert a self-regulating effect on authorities' conduct. The chapter suggests why citizens have not been demanding adequate public answering.)

Chapter 3 The Language of Deception

Language Defeating Accountability
Regular Deception Practice

(To borrow from George Orwell, when authorities' public language is perfected in "spin," so will evasion of responsibility and accountability)

Chapter 4 Twelve Principles of Public Accountability

(These general guiding principles were developed in the late 1990s by the Ottawa-based Alliance for Public Accountability)

Chapter 5 Basic Standards for Public Answering

Six Basic Standards for Public Answering
The Equity Statement
Intentions Needing Equity Statement Disclosure
Auditing the Answering
Legislating the Obligation to Answer
Basic Standards for Legislation
Installing Answering Provisions in Regular Legislation
An Example of Feasible National-Level Accountability Legislation: A Proposed Accountability Amendment to the United States Constitution
A Specific Role for the Senate of Canada

(The chapter emphasizes the nned for standards in society and is the central chapter to guide citizens in developing fair expectations for authorities' public answering -- expectations that must be legislated to give them force. It also explains the necessity of having the most important public answering audited for its fairness and completeness. The chapter introduces the equity statement as a standard reporting format for authorities to explain their intentions and their reasoning. Appendix 1 is an example of applying the equity statement to an important international proposal.)

Chapter 6 The Limits to Public Inquiries

Driving the Inquiry Truck Into the Ditch
Inquiry Mindsets
Unhelpful Inquiry Reporting Practices
Governments Can Ignore Inquiry Recommendations
Standards for Public Inquiries
The Alternative of Audit

(The 1990s Canadian commissions of inquiry into lethally-contaminated blood distribution and the deaths of 26 miners in the Westray coal mine show the weaknesses of such inquiries as a force for ensuring safety diligence by regulators and corporations, and for ensuring adequate public answering from the directing minds of the responsible regulators and corporations. External audit is argued as a better first option.)


Chapter 7 Accountabilities and the Role of the Crown

People Are Accountable, Not Entities
The Importance of the Crown in Public Accountability
A Specific Task for the Crown

(This chapter introduces the accountabilities of the important people described in later chapters, arguing that those who must answer are the "directing minds" of organizations, not their subordinates or organizations as such. In government, in constitutional monarchies such as the United Kingdom and Canada, executive power vests in the Queen (the Crown) or her agents, the governors general and lieutenant governors. They must approve laws before they become the law. The chapter argues that because public accountability is both a society imperative and politically neutral, those in the role of the Crown (also politically neutral) have the legitimate power in the public interest to withhold consent for parliametary Bills that lack public answering provisions.)

Chapter 8 The Accountability of Elected Representatives

Elected Representatives' Responsibilities
The Accountability Issue in HRDC
An Initiative for Legislators
The Quality of Opposition Questioning
Control Pretense in Government
Reasonable Expectations for Elected Representatives' Duties and Answering Obligations

(Using Canadian federal government examples, this chapter argues that elected representatives collectively have the power in their legislative chambers to overcome ritual party obedience and effectively hold to account -- if they wish to. The idea of forging performance and answering standards for elected representatives in all jurisdictions is introduced in the chapter.)

Chapter 9 The Accountability of Senior Civil Servants

Senior Civil Servants' Responsibilities
The Accountability Issue in HRDC
Reasonable Expectations for Senior Civil Servants' Duties and Answering Obligations

(Using the same federal government example, the chapter shows that senior civil servants can be fairly held to account. The chapter argues, for example, that since civil servants are to be politically neutral, the most senior can be asked to set out for citizens what they see as basic, non-partisan public answering standards for the intentions of political ministers of the Crown that would affect the public in important ways.)

Chapter 10 The Accountability of Military Top Command

The Somalia Inquiry and Other Alerts
The Court Martial of LCdr Dean Marsaw
The Case of the Medical Files
Other Examples
The Pattern
Installing Accountability Reporting by Top Command

(This chapter deals with the issue of senior officers not taking responsibility for performance failures and not accounting for the quality of management control in the Forces for fairness and effectiveness -- something that is their responsibility. The fact that the public knows so little about military top command and has relied on blind faith (resulting from earlier citizen trust in wartime) means that the Chief of the Defence Staff should now be asked to report regularly and publicly on the discharge of senior command responsibilities. The reporting standards would be set by a defence-related parliamentary accountability committee.

Chapter 11 The Accountability of Judges

The Problems
Issues for Judges' Accountability Reporting to the Public

(This chapter addresses the fact that judges do not account publicly beyond the wording of their judgments, and argues that judges cannot simply decree that they be fully trusted. The chapter deals with their appointment process, the absence of performance standards for judges to prevent capriciousness and several other issues in judges' public accountability.)

Chapter 12 The Accountability of Governing Boards

The Board Is the Accountable Directing Mind
The Board Is Accountable for Adequately Informing Itself
No One Holds Boards to Account
Who Do Governing Boards Serve?
Legislating Boards' Answering Obligations is Feasible

(The chapter argues that because governing bodies such as boards of directors are statutorily in charge of their organizations, it is they who must account publicly for how they affect the public, not CEOs and others. This accountability has yet to be legislated, and must be if corporations are to be controlled. One of board members' most important accountabilities is public answering for the extent to which they inform themselves for their decision-making having public impacts. This and other board responsibilities and accountabilities are explained through the case example in Appendix 2.)

Chapter 13 The Accountability of Professionals, Academics and Journalists

Professionals and Their Answering Obligations
Academics and Their Answering Obligations
Journalists and Their Answering Obligations

(The public accountabilities of professionals, academics and journalists have been largely ignored yet each of these groups affects the public in important ways. The chapter identifies problems in the discharge of their responsibilities and proposes public answering standards for each.)



Chapter 14 Holding to Account

The Concept
Getting Rid of Supplication
Forging Public Answering Standards
Getting Equity Statements to the Public
Exacting Answering for Performance Standards and Results
Changing Our Relationship With Elected Representatives
Predictable Objections to the Answering Obligation
"We Have met the Enemy, And He Is Us"
Last-Resort Strategy in Holding to Account: Citizen Audit
Whistleblowing as Last-Resort Public Reporting

(The chapter explains what holding fairly to account means and barriers standing in the way, such as citizens supplicating rather than stating reasonable expectations to publicly-accountable bodies. It shows how citizens can forge public answering standards for authorities and deal with predictable objections from those in power. The chapter introduces the idea of citizen audit to deal with authorities' continued refusal to answer, with Appendix 2 being a rigorous example of such an audit. Lastly the chapter argues that whistleblowers are simply giving the public reporting that the specific accountable people have refused to give.)

Chapter 15 Summary

Gaining Control
Keeping Citizen Control: Educating for the Longer Run
A Final Comment

(This sum-up chapter proposes that outreach programs should be created in community colleges to help public interest organization members hold fairly to account, but that the ultimate way to create a public answering society is to teach accountability in civics programs in the schools. This would include teaching recognition of public deception. Violence among younger students has already necessitated special school programs, with teaching interpersonal accountability being one way of dealing with such harm. The Guide closes with the reminder that adequate public answering will increase public trust in the institutions we need, and that citizens who work on holding to account can teach other citizens across the planet.)

Appendix 1: Applying Equity Statement Disclosure to The Intent of International Agreements

The Idea of the Equity Statement
Applying the Equity Statement to the Intentions of the OECD's Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)
Equity Statement Structure for the MAI Intentions
Sections of the Statement

(This appendix illustrates how the equity statement could be applied as a standard reporting structure for disclosing the intentions and reasoning behind major proposals affecting the public.)

Appendix 2: An Example of a Citizen Audit: the Audit of Responsibilities, Performance and Accountabilities in the Apotex Influence Issue at The University of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, 1996-1999

Introduction to Citizen Audit
Introduction to the Alliance for Public Accountability's Citizen Audit
What Happened at the Hospital
Responsibilities, Performance and Answering:
The Hospital Board of Trustees
Senior research Officials
The University of Toronto
The Federal Health Protection Branch
The Medical Research Council
Apotex Inc.

(This appendix illustrates citizen audit, but at a level of rigour greater than need be the case for citizens' groups carrying out such audits)

Appendix 3: Reasonable Expectations for Elected Representatives' and Senior Civil Servants' Duties and Answering Obligations

Elected Representatives
Ministers of the Crown (or their equivalents)
Senior Civil Servants

(These expectations are proposed as a basis for citizens to hold these public servants to account and relate to Chapters 8 and 9)

If you wish to order this book, please visit the online bookstore of Trafford Publishing.