This post contains some excerpts from, and some thoughts about, the third of Onora O'Neill's 2002 Reith Lecture series 'A Question of Trust'.
The bold type is mine throughout, to highlight terms that I found particularly interesting. My thoughts are given below as [footnotes].
"In the last two decades, the quest for greater accountability has penetrated all our lives... detailed conformity to procedures and protocols, detailed record keeping and provision of information in specified formats and success in reaching targets."
"The idea of audit has been exported from its original financial context to cover ever more detailed scrutiny of non-financial processes and systems..." 
“Have these instruments for control, regulation, monitoring and enforcement worked?”
“If the new methods and requirements supported and didn't obstruct the real purposes of each of these professions and institutions, the accountability revolution might achieve its aims... The new accountability is widely experienced not just as changing but I think as distorting the proper aims of professional practice.” 
"... just possibly we’re imposing the wrong sorts of accountability." 
" [we can ask] ... to whom the new audit culture makes professionals and institutions accountable, and for what it makes them accountable?"
"The real focus is on performance indicators chosen for ease of measurement and control rather than because they measure accurately what the quality of performance is. Most people working in the public service have a reasonable sense not only of the specific clinical, educational, policing or other goals for which they work, but also of central ethical standards that they must meet. They know that these complex sets of goals may have to be relegated if they are required to run in a race to improve performance indicators. Even those who devise the indicators know that they are at very best surrogates for the real objectives. Nobody after all seriously thinks that numbers of exam pass levels are the only evidence of good teaching.” 
"In the end, the new culture of accountability provides incentives for arbitrary and unprofessional choices.” 
" …the Sisyphean task of pushing institutional performance up the league tables is made harder by constantly redefining and adding targets and introducing initiatives… ”
" [The pursuit for ever more perfect accountability] ... builds a culture of suspicion, low morale and may ultimately lead to professional cynicism…”
“Such reporting, I believe, is not improved by being wholly standardised or relentlessly detailed, and since much that has to be accounted for is not easily measured it cannot be boiled down to a set of stock performance indicators.” 
“Are we moving towards less distorting forms of accountability?” 
 The financial implications of the word audit are interesting (see also Michael Power's 'audit explosion'). In the question/answer session following the lecture, O'Neill discusses the problems with this metaphor, in particular expecting wholesale quantification, that is more suited to the private [financial] sector, to translate to the public sector, where many important aspects are difficult to measure.
,  and  O'Neill talks of the new accountability - by which she means increasing prevalence of performance indicators - as 'obstructing the real purposes' and 'distorting the proper aims' of education. I have been thinking a lot about the proper aims of education: could we as a profession reach a consensus on the real purpose of education? I am currently interested in Gert Biesta's work on this, in particular his thoughts around the purposes of qualification, socialisation and subjectification.
Unfortunately, O'Neill's statement, "Nobody after all seriously thinks that numbers of exam pass levels are the only evidence of good teaching," couldn't be further from the reality. Accountability in education, based almost exclusively as it is on qualification (see for example this recent speech by Nick Gibb), produces an 'education' that is impoverished and often harmful. What O'Neill calls 'central ethical standards' are not considered in the 'race to the top', or in the obsession with what Rochelle Gutierrez calls 'gap gazing'.
 and  O'Neill asks what the right sorts of accountability might be. She talks about 'intelligent accountability', based more in (local/self) governance rather than (central/total) control, with accounts of successes and failures judged by those who have time to analyse and develop performance, rather than increased centralised regulation and production of performance indicators.
We in education are a long way from the intelligent accountability that O'Neill advocates. Although the new Ofsted framework suggests that they use a wide range of indicators to assess whether children are being provided with a good education, it has been well documented that it is more difficult to get a good Ofsted grade with 'lower achieving' students.
Whilst we have one central body that retains the power to judge (but not develop) schools based on performance indicators (and the massive impact this has on teachers, students and parents lives) and a government that is obsessed with success in qualifications, our children will continue to receive a narrow education. This unintelligent accountability is wholly responsible for harmful emphasis on testing and exam success in all our schools, starting at reception level!
 'Arbitrary and unprofessional choices' are rife in education. For the arbitrary, we only need to look at the practices of organisations such as PiXL. As for the unprofessional, we as teachers, heads of departments and senior leaders are forced to make 'compromises' every day in order to 'play the game'. Perhaps the best we can hope for in meeting ethical, social and political concerns is 'creative insubordination'?
We reconcile this with ourselves; we say that we are balancing conflicting demands, or that we are being realistic, or that we are doing it in the best interests of the children. I think it would be hard to argue that the current (UK) education system is meeting the best interests of our children.