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Analysing and Assessing Public Accountability. A Conceptual Framework

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  • Bovens, Mark

Abstract

It has been argued that the European Union suffers from serious accountability deficits. But how can we establish the existence of accountability deficits? This paper tries to get to grips with the appealing but elusive concept of accountability by asking three types of questions, thus providing three types of building blocks for such an empirical study. First a conceptual one: what exactly is meant by accountability? Accountability is often used in a very broad sense, as a synonym for a variety of evaluative, but essentially contestable concepts, such as responsiveness, responsibility and effectiveness. In this paper the concept of accountability is taken in a much more narrow sense: a relationship between an actor and a forum, in which the actor has an obligation to explain and to justify his or her conduct, the forum can pose questions and pass judgment, and the actor may face consequences. The second question is an analytical one: what types of accountability are involved? On the basis of the narrow definition of accountability, a series of dimensions of accountability will be discerned, that can be used in the description of the various accountability relations and arrangements that can be found in the different domains of governance. The third question is an altogether different, evaluative question: how should we assess these accountability relations, arrangements and regimes? The paper provides three perspectives for the assessment of accountability relations: a democratic, a constitutional, and a cybernetic perspective. Each of these three perspectives may render different types of accountability deficits.

Suggested Citation

  • Bovens, Mark, 2006. "Analysing and Assessing Public Accountability. A Conceptual Framework," European Governance Papers (EUROGOV) 1, CONNEX and EUROGOV networks.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:eurogo:p0005
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    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:74:y:1980:i:04:p:905-916_16 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:64:y:1970:i:04:p:1033-1053_13 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Enefiok E. Essien, 2013. "Accountability and the Experience of the 2007 Global Financial Crisis," Asian Economic and Financial Review, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 3(6), pages 785-791, June.
    2. Mattei, Paola, 2007. "The welfare state and new challenge from the back door," TranState Working Papers 65, University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State.
    3. Torben M. Andersen, 2013. "The Swedish Fiscal Policy Framework and Intermediate Fiscal Policy Targets," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 149(II), pages 231-248, June.
    4. Deepa Narayan & Lant Pritchett & Soumya Kapoor, 2009. "Moving Out of Poverty : Volume 2. Success from the Bottom Up," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 11838.
    5. Maliheh Mansouri & Julie Rowney, 2014. "The Dilemma of Accountability for Professionals: A Challenge for Mainstream Management Theories," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 45-56, August.
    6. Andersen, Torben M., 2013. "Fiscal policy targeting under imperfect information," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 114-130.
    7. Francisco Torres, 2006. "On the efficiency-legitimacy trade-off in EMU," Working Papers de Economia (Economics Working Papers) 36, Departamento de Economia, Gestão e Engenharia Industrial, Universidade de Aveiro.
    8. Matthew Flinders, 2010. "Splintered Logic and Political Debate," Chapters,in: International Handbook on Public–Private Partnerships, chapter 6 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. Popoola, Oluwatoyin Muse Johnson & Che-Ahmad, Ayoib & Samsudin, Rose Shamsiah, 2014. "Fraud and Forensic Accounting: Knowledge and Risk Assessment Task Performance in Malaysian Public Sector – Conceptual study," MPRA Paper 66680, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2014.

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    Keywords

    accountability; governance; democracy; political science; law; sociology;

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