At the highest level of morality, the Cosmic Court of Justice should ensure that each of us is accountable for our actions. So believe some of us. In society, there is, of course, the law. Regrettably, in the English-speaking world of the West, justice may be somewhat lacking in accountability. In the adversarial process in the law courts, both justice and pertinent information could be buried under process and technicalities. Few private sector miscreants seem to spend much time in jail.
Public services, especially local government, lacking accountability measures, remain relatively less efficient: process is all. Neither responsible Ministers nor their accountable heads (of division) have been reported to have been penalised for some disasters of great significance in recent times. Worse still, about 30 years ago, heads of official agencies became required to provide official advice supporting the government of the day, rather than offer impartial advice.
A tragic consequence of this practice is that overt transparency in the promotion of public officials, based on open assessments of relative merit, became irrelevant. This was contrary to the procedures established by the then public service trade union (ACOA), through the 10-year work of a merit protection committee (which I chaired for 7 years). The federal Public Service Board had accepted our procedures; and a judge had affirmed that natural justice did apply in the federal public service.
Hence, when I experienced persistent discrimination during the last 5 years or so of my career, I had no protection available from a tribal team, some members of which openly gave great weight to mass (with a capital M).
This is not that different now in the federal parliament. Cabinet is seemingly controlled by Vaticanites, with factions within reportedly dueling for supremacy, while keeping the party in office. The nation’s social policies seem subservient to theological edicts from afar. Accountability through elections? Tweedledum vs.Tweedledee (consult Alice in Wonderland), with individual parliamentary representatives not accountable to electors.
Other issues relating to accountability are very much alive in this so-called ‘lucky country’, a sardonic term bestowed upon us by a clever social commentator. Processes and outcomes in education nationwide, through State-controlled systems, continue in contention.
Accountability through tests and, inferentially, the quality and relevance of what is taught (and how) remain battlegrounds.