Improving Public Urban Services through Increased Accountability

This paper is concerned with the potential of accountability to improve the performance of public urban services. A number of assumptions are made in the literature relating to accountability; these concern the necessity of multiple strategies of accountability, information symmetries, sanctions, trust, homogeneous service users, community-level answerability, incentives, self-regarding behavior, and for users' voice to be heard in service delivery. It is the purpose of this paper to reconsider these theoretical propositions for the functioning of accountability in light of practical experience from the United Kingdom, South Africa, Bangladesh, and South Korea. Each of these case studies was selected to illustrate a different form of accountability. The forms of accountability investigated in this research are professional, political, user, and managerial accountabilities. An assessment is made of whether accountability is demonstrated in these case studies in the way predicted by the literature. The empirical data demonstrate that factors like multiple strategies and information/resource symmetries are critical to accountability but that there is only partial evidence to support the need for sanctions, trust, incentives, self-interest, and user voice for effective service delivery. The research indicates the need for greater emphasis on the operation and maintenance of urban services and direct accountability to service users. However the assumption that service users are homogeneous is disputed. This paper concludes with a review of the practical implications of strengthening accountability as a means to improve the performance of urban services.


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  • Accession Number: 01005636
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 14 2005 11:53AM