Accountability in Public Policy Partnerships by J. Steets

By J. Steets

Governments and overseas enterprises more and more use public-private partnerships to bring crucial public items. This book presents a brand new version of responsibility which guarantees that those partnerships do not erode public responsibility. It defines concrete responsibility criteria for various different types of partnerships.

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The rules regulate not only what needs to be communicated but also determine requirements for the quality of information. 56 Accountability for results: Perhaps the most obvious aspect that organisations are held to account for are the outcomes or results of their work. This includes firstly which goals an organisation pursues. Take, for example, an advocacy NGO that claims to represent the interests of indigenous people and seeks to stop the construction of a dam on their behalf. The group of indigenous people may actually disagree and try to hold the NGO accountable for its goals.

As Robert Behn argued persuasively for accountability in the political sector, this can lead to serious shortcomings in the overall workings of a political system (Behn, 2001). 4 How is accountability created or strengthened? The definition of accountability proposed above contained a description of the basic mechanism through which accountability works. An agent behaves in a certain way. Information about these activities is used by the principal to evaluate the agent’s behaviour. Depending on whether or not the behaviour conforms to the principal’s expectations, she will apply sanctions to control the agent’s activities, thus establishing what could be termed ‘retroactive accountability’.

3, organisations often assume authority without explicit prior authorisation. In these cases, those who originally or rightfully hold the authority now exercised by the organisation have a claim to accountability. The lack of formality means, however, that these claims are often contested. In practice, the relative power of groups or individuals often determines whether they can hold an agent accountable. Establishing clear criteria for determining who should be recognised as a principal is nevertheless important, not least because legitimacy itself has become a currency of power in a globalised world.

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