2.14 Holding the Bureaucracy Accountable

6 min readfebruary 4, 2023


Samantha Howey

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

240 resources
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Holding bureaucracy accountable means ensuring that government agencies and officials are following the rules and regulations, using resources efficiently and effectively, and providing services to the public in a fair and transparent manner. This can be done through various means such as internal and external audits, performance evaluations, public reporting and dissemination of information, and a strong system of checks and balances through the legislative and judicial branches of government. Ultimately, accountability in bureaucracy requires active participation and engagement from both government officials and citizens to promote transparency, good governance, and responsible use of public resources.

Key Questions

Here are some key questions to ask when evaluating the accountability of bureaucracy:
  1. Are government agencies following the rules and regulations set forth by law?
  2. Are government officials using public resources efficiently and effectively?
  3. Are government services being provided in a fair and transparent manner?
  4. Is there a strong system of checks and balances in place to prevent abuse of power?
  5. Are internal and external audits being conducted to monitor performance and ensure compliance?
  6. Are performance evaluations being conducted to measure the effectiveness of government programs and services?
  7. Is information about government activities readily available to the public?
  8. Are there mechanisms in place to allow citizens to voice their concerns and provide feedback?
  9. Is there a culture of transparency and accountability within the bureaucracy?

Key Vocabulary

  • Bureaucracy: A system of government administration characterized by hierarchical authority, extensive regulations, and a division of labor.
  • Accountability: The state of being accountable, or being responsible for one's actions and decisions, and being answerable for their consequences.
  • Transparency: The quality of being transparent, or open and accessible, and allowing for the free flow of information.
  • Governance: The process of decision-making and the exercise of authority in organizations, communities, and societies.
  • Checks and Balances: A system of interlocking powers and responsibilities among different branches of government, aimed at preventing any one branch from exerting too much power.
  • Performance Evaluation: The process of assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs and services.
  • Audit: A systematic and independent examination of financial, operational, or performance information to provide assurance that the information is accurate and in compliance with established criteria.
  • Public Reporting: The dissemination of information about government activities and financial performance to the public.
  • Regulation: A rule or directive issued by a government agency to govern the activities of private entities and individuals.
  • Compliance: The act of adhering to rules, regulations, and standards set forth by a governing authority.

Congressional Oversight

Congressional oversight refers to the authority of the U.S. Congress to monitor and regulate the actions of the executive branch and its agencies, as well as to ensure that they are following the law and carrying out their responsibilities effectively. This is achieved through various means such as holding hearings and investigations, requesting and reviewing government reports and documents, and using their power of the purse to control the budget of executive agencies. Congressional oversight helps ensure that the executive branch is accountable to the public and to the legislature, and helps prevent abuse of power and the waste of public resources.
  • The Watergate scandal, where the U.S. Congress conducted investigations and held hearings to uncover the truth about the Nixon Administration's involvement in the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
  • The Benghazi attack, where the U.S. Congress conducted investigations and held hearings to determine what happened during the attack and how the government responded.

Executive Direction

Executive direction refers to the management and leadership provided by the executive branch of government to guide and shape the policies, programs, and operations of the government. This includes setting goals and objectives, developing plans and strategies, providing guidance and support, and evaluating performance. The executive branch is responsible for implementing laws and regulations, and for managing and directing the work of federal agencies and departments. Effective executive direction is crucial for ensuring that the government operates efficiently, effectively, and in accordance with the laws and regulations, and for ensuring that the government is accountable to the public.
  • The creation of the Department of Homeland Security after the September 11th attacks, which brought together multiple government agencies under a single department with a unified mission to protect the country from terrorism.
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, creating a comprehensive health care reform system to provide affordable health care to all Americans.

Judicial Rulings

Judicial rulings refer to the decisions made by a court of law, including the Supreme Court, in response to legal cases and disputes. These decisions serve as a means of interpreting and applying the law, and they have the power of binding precedent, meaning that they must be followed by lower courts in similar cases. Judicial rulings can also have a significant impact on public policy, as they may determine the constitutionality of laws and executive actions, and set legal standards and norms. They play an important role in maintaining the balance of power between the branches of government, and in upholding individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the constitution.
  • Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court declared that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, paving the way for the end of segregation in America.
  • Roe v. Wade, a U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court held that a woman has the constitutional right to have an abortion, legalizing abortion in the United States.
🎥 Watch: AP GOPO - The Federal Budget

Authorization of spending

Authorization of spending refers to the process of granting legislative approval for the allocation of funds for specific programs, projects, or initiatives. This authorization is typically provided through legislation, such as appropriations bills, which determine the amount of money that can be spent on a particular program or activity. Authorization of spending is a critical component of the budget process, as it provides the necessary legal authority for the executive branch to spend money on specific programs and activities. It also helps to ensure that the government's spending is aligned with its priorities and goals, and that public resources are being used effectively and efficiently. Congress has the constitutional authority to authorize spending, and it plays a crucial role in ensuring that the government's spending is subject to legislative oversight and approval.
An example of authorization of spending is the passage of the annual federal budget by Congress. The budget outlines the total amount of money that the government will spend in a fiscal year, and it allocates funds to various federal agencies and programs. For example, the budget might include funding for the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services, among others. The budget also includes provisions for mandatory spending programs, such as Social Security, and discretionary spending programs, such as scientific research and development. The authorization of spending provided by the federal budget allows the government to carry out its responsibilities and obligations, and to fund programs and initiatives that are important to the American people.

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is a part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the Executive Office of the President of the United States. It is responsible for reviewing and coordinating federal government regulations, with the goal of ensuring that regulations are effective, efficient, and in compliance with the President's policy agenda. OIRA plays a key role in the regulatory process, conducting cost-benefit analyses, reviewing agency regulations, and providing guidance to agencies on how to improve their regulations. The OIRA also provides a central point of coordination for agencies to share information, resolve interagency disputes, and track the progress of regulations. OIRA's goal is to ensure that the regulatory process is transparent, effective, and accountable, and that regulations are aligned with the President's policy objectives and the interests of the American people.
Example: An example of the role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the regulatory process is the review of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan. In 2014, the EPA proposed new regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan. Before the regulations could take effect, they had to undergo a review by the OIRA, which evaluated the potential costs and benefits of the plan and provided guidance to the EPA on how to improve the regulations. After the review, the OIRA approved the regulations, which were then implemented by the EPA. The OIRA's review helped to ensure that the Clean Power Plan was based on sound science, economically justified, and aligned with the President's policy objectives.

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