Although accountability is widely believed to be a good thing, the concept is highly abstract and it is often used in a very general way. Accountability is one of those words more often used than understood. The political reality is that accountability means that the government of the day must justify and explain its actions to the public, in the hope of maintaining trust and being re-elected.
A typical definition is that accountability concerns the processes by which those who exercise power whether as governments, as elected representatives or as appointed Officials, must be able to show that they have exercised their powers and discharged their duties properly. Theory and practice suggest that accountability practice in public sector is weak due to several reasons as shall be explored further in this study. While much of the accountability research work has focused on financial management accountability practice, little has been done on non-financial issues of accountability practice.
Public sector reforms and increased democratic space have given rise to greater demand for enhanced accountability practice in public service more than ever before. Citizens now demand for fair treatment, efficient and effective service delivery, citizen engagement in policy making and more specifically, the observance of the rule of law. This study therefore sought to establish the extent to which the whole range of accountability practices was evident in Kenya’s public sector. The study revealed that the current practice is one that promotes accounting for resources spent more than promoting accountability. It was further noted that public servants were more accountable to their seniors, the heads of departments and ultimately the president and his Cabinet than they were to the public which has put the government in place. Several lessons were learnt from this study which will be used to provide insight into the practice of accountability in public sector.