A widespread common sense holds that well-functioning public institutions must be accountable for their action. But this common-sense easily turns into an empty catch-all claim failing an adequate analysis of what “being accountable” means in the context of institutional action. This analysis requires some clarity about what institutional action is. In this presentation, I offer such an analysis, and distinguish different kinds of institutional accountability, internal and external to institutional action. I then discuss how public institutions may succeed or fail to be accountable on the various senses. I illustrate this final discussion with special reference to a major institutional dysfunction: corruption.
Keynote Lecture, part of the PhD Research Workshop: "Vested Interests and Democracy" (Odile Ammann, Olivier Ruchet)