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"Accountability" stems from late Latin accomptare (to account), a prefixed form of computare (to calculate), which in turn derived from putare (to reckon). While the word itself does not appear in English until its use in 13th century Norman England, the concept of account-giving has ancient roots in record keeping activities related to governance and money-lending systems that first developed in Ancient Israel, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and later, Rome.

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Accountability is a concept in ethics and governance with several meanings. It is often used synonymously with such concepts as responsibility, answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and other terms associated with the expectation of account-giving. As an aspect of governance, it has been central to discussions related to problems in the public sector, nonprofit and private (corporate) worlds. 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.

As a term related to governance, accountability has been difficult to define. It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e.g. "A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct". Accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices, in other words absence of accounting means absence of accountability.[1]


  1. Walzer, Michael (1994). "The Legal Codes of Ancient Israel". In Ian Shapiro. the Rule of Law. NY: New York University Press. pp. 101–119.
  2. Urch, Edwin J. (July 1929). "The Law Code of Hammurabi". American Bar Association Journal 15 (7): 437–441.
  3. Ezzamel, Mahmoud (December 1997). "Accounting, Control and Accountability: Preliminary Evidence from Ancient Egypt". Critical Perspectives on Accounting 8 (6): 563–601. doi:10.1006/cpac.1997.0123.
  4. Roberts, Jennnifer T. (1982). Accountability in Athenian Government. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
  5. Plescia, Joseph (January 2001). "Judicial Accountability and Immunity in Roman Law". American Journal of Legal History (The American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 45, No. 1) 45 (1): 51–70. doi:10.2307/3185349.