Does voice matter? : for public accountability, yes
Recent theory posits that accountability in public service can be enhanced by the use of"exit"and a"voice"mechanisms. With exit mechanisms, users of public services can choose alternative sources of supply. Exit mechanisms are viable when there is competition. They are not viable for essential services for which government is the sole provider. Voice mechanisms are the more likely option when the service providers is a monopoly. With voice mechanisms - for example, public meetings, local representation on public committees, or collective action by user groups - the public seeks better performance from public service providers without opting for alternative sources of supply. Considerable research has been done on how and whether exit mechanisms improve organizations'performance and accountability. Little research has been dome on whether voice mechanisms make service providers more accountable. The author addresses that issue by investigating whether providers of irrigation services in Indonesia were more accountable when the public used voice mechanisms. The author asked these questions: Did the use of voice improve public accountability in irrigation services? If accountability improved, did service outcomes also improve? The author focused on how voice works and the mechanisms through which it influences accountability. The author found that water user associations did make providers of irrigation services more accountable and that crop intensity increased as a result.
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