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Your time is important. Get essay help. Accessed 19 October Ministerial responsibility. What is the difference between accountability and responsibility? And finally, what is the importance of accountability in the Canadian public administration sphere?

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Ministers in Canada are senior members of parliament who are appointed to a department by the Prime Minister. These ministers are the constitutional head of all public agencies, ranging from Department of Agriculture to Service Canada to the Department of Veteran Affairs. Cabinets are the means in which new governmental polices are created and developed. If passed through both houses of parliament, these policies are then conveyed to individual departments through the ministers.

The implementation and feedback of these policies is then the responsibility of front line civil servants. Ultimately, there are two main types of ministerial responsibility: collective and individual. Collective responsibilities refer to the accountability of the government to parliament as a whole. The collective cabinet responsibility ensures the solidarity of that cabinet as well as the government, as all the cabinets compose the political government. Therefore, the collective ministerial responsibility allows the government to present policies to parliament with one collective voice.

The cabinet is the mainspring of modern ministerial government. It is essentially a political mechanism, and as such it remains an informal body even though its "decisions" are authoritative. Generally speaking these "decisions" complete the process of consensus-making whereby in the formula of its recorded decisions "the cabinet agrees" with the proposals of ministers to exercise their individual responsibilities in some particular way.

Ministers do not ask the cabinet to agree to each initiative they take deriving from their individual responsibilities, but only those that have political importance: i. The cabinet's historic role has been and is principally political in the sense described. In relatively recent times, however, the cabinet has also assumed a central role in the co-ordination of initiatives that require the administrative action of two or more departments. It is a matter of observation that these political and administrative coordinating roles of the cabinet have become enmeshed during the last two decades as a consequence of the growing complexity of the cabinet's business and the elaboration of the support services provided by its secretariat.

Short Essay on Principle of Collective Responsibility

The cabinet is served by its secretariat located in the Privy Council Office, which is responsible to the Prime Minister. The essential function of the cabinet's secretariat and other officials in the Privy Council Office, all of whom answer to the Prime Minister, is to assist the Prime Minister in establishing the equilibrium essential to the system.

The Secretary to the Cabinet and his or her officers coordinate the initiatives of ministers' departments, ensuring informally as well as through an extensive system of interdepartmental committees that interdepartmental consultation takes place, to the extent possible disputes are resolved, and that remaining issues are clearly identified for discussion among ministers. The Privy Council Office also supports the Prime Minister in the exercise of the other means that he uses to provide leadership and promote consensus in the system, including efforts to develop in consultation with his colleagues the general thrust of the government's program, the appointment of deputy ministers and other senior officials, and the general organization of the machinery of the government and relationships among its key elements, including the arbitration of jurisdictional disputes between ministers.

In all of this the Privy Council Office seeks to facilitate and assist rather than to create and direct. The office must respect the confederal nature of the system in which power flows from ministers. Its roles are to co-ordinate the exercise of power and to assist the Prime Minister in leading his colleagues to establish the general orientation of the government.

These are powerful roles.

The Treasury Board, a committee of the cabinet, is a second essential mechanism devoted to assisting ministers in the exercise of their collective responsibilities. Put simply, the Treasury Board is a mechanism that the ministry has imposed on itself for the preparation and reconciliation of estimates. It was established on the Prime Minister's recommendation at confederation and provided with a statutory base two years later.

The Minister of Finance was required, therefore, to work closely with the Prime Minister in fulfilling the basic duty of the Board ministers to reconcile conflicting demands for money from their cabinet colleagues. Until , the Deputy Minister of Finance was also the Secretary of the Treasury Board, and it was largely his function to ensure that consolidated estimates were prepared.

In this respect, our history paralleled developments in Whitehall where at about the same time 's the functions of the Treasury commissioners were being taken over by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his officials, permitting the Treasury Board to fall into disuse. The role of the Treasury Board ministers was strengthened, ultimately separating the Board's secretariat from the department of Finance and providing the Board with a chairman the President separate from the Minister of Finance.

These changes spanned years of our constitutional development. Financial control exercised by ministers collectively through the Treasury Board opened the way for the establishment of management and other administrative standards on a central basis. From the outset, the Minister of Finance through the Treasury Board assumed certain de facto powers that affected the management of individual departments.

The Treasury Board, responsible for reconciling estimates, was in theory also concerned that the unity of the ministry not be made vulnerable in Parliament through the exposure of corrupt or inefficient practices in departments. As noted earlier, this function was well established in the 18th century Treasury in England, which was looked to by Parliament to provide assurance that such practices were vigorously safeguarded against. The Finance Act of set out clearly the powers of the Treasury Board with respect to matters of finance and expenditure, and by implication of management.

Individual Ministerial Responsibility

These responsibilities have since been elaborated in a series of important Acts designed to improve the standards of resource management and to eliminate careless, wasteful, and corrupt practices. Each of these successive Acts has sought to strengthen the Treasury Board's ability to provide a framework for the management of the public service that will reassure Parliament that the service is being managed efficiently.

The Treasury Board's management functions had been fulfilled somewhat haphazardly over the years prior to the formation of Mr. Bennett's administration in Not much had been done, however, to standardize financial expenditure and accounting systems, and overspending of votes and other unauthorized expenditure was not uncommon. Parliament, more particularly the Public Accounts Committee, had shown little interest in improving the system. Bennett, who was also Minister of Finance, was disconcerted to discover that owing to widely differing standards and systems of accounting he could not determine the financial position of the government.

The Accountability Of British Ministers Law Public Essay

These circumstances precipitated the Consolidated Revenue and Audit Act of , which imposed a highly centralized system for authorizing expenditure and a standardized accounting system. The Act created the subordinate position within the department of Finance of Comptroller of the Treasury. This officer was provided with a staff of accounting officers stationed in each department. The Bennett reforms ushered in a period of highly centralized financial control that spanned the succeeding 35 years.


They were occasioned by hard times and stringent economies, but they also reflected a chronic weakness in departmental financial systems due to the absence of uniform systems for expenditure and accounting. The reforms were, however, somewhat repugnant to the principles of responsibility in the system. The Glassco Royal Commission's theme of "let the managers manage" precipitated amendments to the Financial Administration Act in that set in place the organizational and financial relationship that currently exists between the Treasury Board and ministers in their departments.

Summarizing the developments that had occurred since , the Commissioners noted:. The Commission argued in effect for a reassertion of ministerial authority. It proposed the separation of the Treasury Board's secretariat from the department of Finance placing it under the leadership of a secretary with the rank and status of a deputy minister, the appointment of a separate minister to preside over the Board, and the substitution of management leadership and Treasury Board prescribed standards for the control functions exercised by the Comptroller of the Treasury.

The system presided over by the Comptroller of the Treasury between and operated to the detriment of ministerial responsibility with adverse consequences for the exercise of constitutional responsibility and as evidence of this for the flexibility and responsiveness of government.

During this period the idea of accountability disappeared and was replaced by the system of controls criticized by the Glassco Royal Commission. The post-Glassco reforms initiated a trend away from a highly centralized system based on controls and a move towards greater freedom for the exercise of ministerial autonomy, and since the Treasury Board and its secretariat have sought to elaborate a role more appropriate to the needs of ministerial government. A discussion of collective institutions i. Unlike the cabinet and the Treasury Board and their supporting organizations, the Commission is neither of the ministry nor is it its agent.

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The Commission is a strange hybrid. The Commission, in carrying out its role to ensure probity in appointments, fulfills an important function in preventing abuses that could inter alia undermine confidence in ministers. Although the consequences for collective responsibility flowing from the activities of the Board and the Commission are similar, the obligations of the Commission are to Parliament rather than to the ministry.