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Lost in Diffusion? How Collaborative Arrangements Lead to an Accountability Paradox
Abstract and Figures
Several authors have documented a shift from traditional bureaucracies to collaborative arrangements with joint public and private involvement. This article studies the impact of this shift on accountability. We conclude from our explorative case analysis of Public— Private Partnership (PPP) policy in Flanders (Belgium) that there is an accountability paradox. Many prominent players in the policy arena point to serious shortcomings in the accountability of complex PPPs. Yet, with the introduction of PPPs, the number of accountability mechanisms did increase rather than decrease. This remarkable inconsistency between accountability as a tool and as a result is the main focus of this article. How can we avoid that accountability gets lost in the diffusion of public and private responsibilities? Points for practitioners Most research concludes that there is something wrong with accountability in PPPs. Our empirical analysis confirms in general this negative interpretation. The respondents share important concerns about how accountability works nowadays in practice. We therefore state that: the shift towards PPPs erodes the traditional notion of accountability; it entails new tools of accountability with a strong emphasis on performance; these tools, however, do not counterbalance the eroded traditional notion of accountability. Yet, they also share a remarkable optimism about the accountability potential of PPPs. With the necessary modifications (minor or major) a balance between the democratic, constitutional and performance functions of accountability can be found.
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