U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre

This Anti-Corruption Helpdesk brief was produced in response to a query from a U4 Partner Agency. The U4 Helpdesk is operated by Transparency International in collaboration with the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre based at the Chr. Michelsen Institute.


We always assume that there is a direct link between transparency and accountability, but is this a given or is it supported by evidence?


There is a general assumption about the positive effect of transparency on accountability. Even if, in theory, that link seems to be obvious, in practice the relationship is not always straightforward. Accountability and transparency can take different forms, and the relationship between them depends on the extent to which they are designed to support each other. Empirical studies show that, in some cases, transparency is a pre-condition of accountability. In other cases, transparency requirements can make accountability confusing and difficult to achieve. To be aware of the different types of accountability and transparency and how they can relate to each other is a first step towards more efficient accountability and transparency mechanisms.

Main points

  • Transparency and accountability depends on how they are defined and demanded.
  • What and how information is released will determine what accountability is possible.
  • Direction of accountability expected will require a certain type of transparency.
  • To ensure a positive influence, transparency and accountability systems should be designed to support each other.


  1. Introduction
  2. Transparency as pre-condition for accountability
  3. The costs of transparency
  4. What type of transparency for what type of accountability
  5. The importance of the context
  6. References


Nieves Zúñiga


Matthew Jenkins, Transparency International and David Jackson, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre




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