Part 8: Conclusion

Public accountability: A matter of trust and confidence.

This paper attempts to bring together the many perspectives about public accountability and to provide some insights about what this could mean for the future of public accountability in New Zealand.

The public accountability system plays a fundamental role in maintaining the public's trust and confidence in the public sector. The public accountability system should enable public sector organisations to demonstrate three important attributes – competence, reliability, and honesty.

In today's dynamic and connected world, a well-performing public sector is important but is not enough. The literature suggests that tensions are emerging because a system based, at least in theory, entirely on indirect representatives does not adequately meet the public's expectations for greater public sector accountability.

Attempts by the State sector to meet these expectations through greater participation, openness, and transparency are a good start, but they might not fully capture what the public expects of the public sector.

The recently announced public sector reforms will continue to alter the relationships within the public sector, and between the public sector and the public. As these relationships and their underlying expectations change, new ways of thinking about public accountability are needed.

The next phase of our work will build on what we have learned here and will focus on how well the current approach to public accountability can respond to some of the challenges and opportunities facing the public sector in the 21st century.