Giving accountability is a responsibility, not a punishment
Being raised by responsible parents is a bonus and a good foundation that prepares you to handle future challenges with ease. Things are fast changing and children are now being carelessly raised with no sense of respect, tolerance and accountability. I remember those days when my parents could not buy me a new pen before I presented to them the old one that had been used up.
There was a time I was punished by my mother simply because the number of pages in my exercise book was less than the 96 pages the book is supposed to have. She would routinely ask for our books to count and establish if we had not plucked out papers. Before a new book would be provided you had to present the used up book so that mother confirms that you actually need another book.
They were aware that two bars of soap would take me throughout a term in boarding school and if they got finished before the term elapsed I had to explain why. I once missed pocket money for a term because I had failed to be among the best five students in my class the previous term. Today children are no longer held accountable for anything, not even their own education.
Maybe our parents were being too harsh; maybe they were poor and never wanted their money to be wasted. But the bottom line remains that they taught us to be accountable. And this is one of the world’s biggest challenges. People cannot account for their actions, decisions, responsibilities and hate being reminded to.
Being asked to account is not a punishment but an obligation. Accountability is simply the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property.
Student accountability is traditionally based on having school and classroom rules, combined with sanctions for infringement, as well as setting targets and ensuring that the set targets are achieved. In case of failure to meet the targets the onus to explain the failure still lies on your shoulders.
In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.
Quite a good number of leaders we have today are not even aware that they have the responsibility to account. Some publicly, proudly and arrogantly say that they are not accountable to anyone but to themselves. Leaders are servants and people who secure them those positions are the bosses. It is common knowledge that all servants are accountable to their bosses. If you are not comfortable being a servant simply cease being a leader.
In a democracy, elected officials are accountable to the public they govern. Of course, how that accountability works is complicated and a tricky thing, with checks and balances, partisanship, the media, and good old-fashioned bureaucracy all playing roles. People react to being held accountable in different ways in different situations.
One would think that having to answer to someone for your actions or your decisions would make you think more carefully about whether you are doing the right thing. When we imagine a situation where leaders are not accountable all we can see are societies run in the interest of the leaders and those in power but not on the wishes and aspiration of the people who vote them into leadership.
In our African setting, when people come for your wedding they expect the two of you to have a baby in the next one year. If two years elapse without a baby you must explain. You didn’t get married to get a companion with whom you will watch TV. You two must perform marital duties and bring into life a child.
And if this fails then you must prepare to answer questions and account for your failure. If a couple is put to task to account for their failure to produce their own child, why can’t we hold leaders accountable for their performer on projects in which all of us have an interest? Leaders are not running their own businesses; they run public businesses in which almost all people have an interest. Incompetence, corruption and abuse of offices, neglect of duty and deviation from the agreed methods of work all have to be explained.
When we fail to hold others accountable, we reap the consequences, some obvious and some not so obvious. A lack of productivity is one of the more obvious negatives that come to mind.
While everyone is busy pointing fingers at each other, deadlines don’t get met, the work remains below standard, or customers continue to be dissatisfied. Worse yet, things won’t get better until people stop trying to affix blame and start addressing the issue that caused the problem in the first place. It is high time we held leaders accountable for their actions.