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Does public accountability work? An assessment tool

By: Mark Bovens, Thomas Schillemans, Paul T Hart

This tool demonstrates that developing better methods of governmental accountability is closely linked to advances in legal empowerment.  In recent years, there has been a drive to strengthen existing public accountability arrangements and to design new ones. This prompts the question whether accountability arrangements actually work. In the existing literature, both accountability ‘deficits’ and ‘overloads’ are alleged to exist. However, owing to the lack of a cogent yardstick, the debate tends to be impressionistic and event driven.

In this article, Bovens, Schillemans, and Hart develop an instrument for systematically assessing public accountability arrangements, drawing on three different normative perspectives. In the democratic perspective, accountability arrangements should effectively link government actions to the democratic chain of delegation. In the constitutional perspective, it is essential that accountability arrangements prevent or uncover abuses of public authority. In the learning perspective, accountability is a tool to make governments effective in delivering on their promises. The authors demonstrate the use of a multi-criteria assessment tool in an analysis of a new accountability arrangement: the boards of oversight of agencies.

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Uploaded on: Jan 28, 2014
Last Updated: Dec 04, 2015
Year Published: 2008
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