Accountability mechanisms of inquiries and investigations into Australian governments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic

Rajan, Rachana, and Topp, Steph (2022) Accountability mechanisms of inquiries and investigations into Australian governments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. (In Press)

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Objective: Australian federal, state and territory government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have been subject to public oversight by various domestic inquiries and investigations, despite little analysis about what accountability these processes deliver in the context of public health emergencies (PHEs) involving communicable disease. This article identifies and describes recent inquiries and investigations. It examines their ability to promote accountability through mechanisms of answerability (information and justification) and enforceability (sanctions).

Methods: A systematic scoping review was used to identify inquiries and investigations initiated by May 2021 and to examine the answerability and enforceability mechanisms present. Three diverse case studies were chosen for further description and examination.

Results: Seven parliamentary inquiries, two commissions/boards of inquiry and one Ombudsman investigation were identified. All had numerous mechanisms of answerability. All but two embedded enforceability mechanisms; these were limited, however, to basic reporting.

Conclusion: While inquiries and investigations can promote accountability through various mechanisms of answerability, external enforceability mechanisms may be beneficial to strengthen accountability and ensure learning.

Implications for public health: Consideration of the kind of accountability that public inquiries and investigations should provide in the context of communicable disease PHEs, and how accountability mechanisms can be strengthened, may improve future public health responses.

Item ID: 74284
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1753-6405
Keywords: accountability, public health emergencies, communicable disease, health systems, COVID-19
Copyright Information: © 2022 The Authors This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Date Deposited: 26 May 2022 22:48
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4407 Policy and administration > 440706 Health policy @ 30%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4206 Public health > 420699 Public health not elsewhere classified @ 40%
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4407 Policy and administration > 440708 Public administration @ 30%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200406 Health protection and disaster response @ 40%
20 HEALTH > 2002 Evaluation of health and support services > 200205 Health policy evaluation @ 30%
23 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 2302 Government and politics > 230299 Government and politics not elsewhere classified @ 30%
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