Analysing and Assessing Public Accountability. A Conceptual
Published: January 16,
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
accountability, governance, democracy, political science,
– Utrecht University
© 2006 Mark Bovens
Citing this EUROGOV
Bovens, Mark. 2006. Analysing and Assessing Public Accountability.
A Conceptual Framework. European Governance Papers (EUROGOV)