To be accountable means to be responsible or answerable to someone for something. It involves taking responsibility for your own actions and being able to explain them. Accountability comes in many forms and is used in all aspects of our society.
Being Accountable for Your Own Actions
Being accountable for our own actions means that we would be able to explain to someone why we did something. We would also take responsibility for the outcome. If we were to jump off of a high wall, we would be accountable to ourselves for the fact that the laws of gravity will take over and bring us to the ground. If we act in a way that affects others, we will be held accountable to those other people for the effect that our actions had on them and would be asked to explain and stand responsible for that effect.
Being Accountable for a Group's Actions
In an effort to be "accountable for the expenditure of Recovery Act funds," the U.S. government has established a website called Recovery.gov. (See References section.) This site demonstrates accountability for a group situation and was developed to allow the American people to see where the money from the Recovery Act has gone. There are reporting procedures for anyone who has received over $25,000 from the Recovery Act. The details of those transactions are explained on the website, where anyone can check on the progress of the act. This is a detailed site that is a display of the accountability of the U.S. government for their actions in one particular matter.
Every action that we as a people make is accountable to some law–whether it is the law of gravity or a law of decency or a law of the criminal justice system. If we cause harm to someone else or to someone's property, we can be held accountable for our actions. The criminal justice system and our court systems were enacted to enforce the laws of accountability and responsibility. For those who refuse to be accountable, there are ways for others to seek that accountability and for investigators to learn how and why something was done. This in turn helps those who want to hold the offending party responsible.