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Democratic accountability in decentralised governance
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Evaluation Research (UCER).
2009 (English)In: Scandinavian Political Studies, ISSN 0080-6757, E-ISSN 1467-9477, Vol. 32, no 1, 1-22 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article develops a conceptual framework for studying democratic accountability in decentralized governance, and discusses critical issues about democratic accountability from a citizen’s perspective. First, the concept is discussed and adapted to make it useful for studying democratic accountability in different governance structures. Second, the article scrutinises conditions for democratic accountability in decentralised governance based on three models. Third, democratic accountability is discussed with reference to a case study of public reviewers operating in four municipalities in Sweden. The study indicates that municipal auditors and the local media have the greatest impact on municipal policy. On the whole, auditors improve local governments’ internal control and systems for steering and monitoring municipal policy, whereas the media sometimes alter the policy agenda without changing the policy. Auditors maintain and support an elitist democratic orientation of democratic accountability, and the media maintain this democratic orientation and in addition promote democratic dialogue. Viewed from a citizen’s perspective, the traditional accountability system does not work satisfactorily. State inspectors and municipal auditors – two important public reviewers in the current system – could improve their work to make it more useful to citizens’ democratic control. Another way discussed to develop democratic accountability is to promote participatory policy and concrete means of accountability (e.g. on-site visits, conducted tours and different forms of democratic dialogue). The formal way to improve democratic accountability implies more transparency, monitoring and control, which may also lead to distrust and scapegoat thinking (i.e. a surveillance society), whereas concrete modes of accountability, more associated with participatory and deliberative democracy, imply mutual responsibility and trust building. Strengthening participatory policy, active citizens, collective responsibility and democratic dialogue could be an alternative to the emerging audit society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 32, no 1, 1-22 p.
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-40079DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9477.2008.00220.xOAI: diva2:397863
Available from: 2011-02-21 Created: 2011-02-16 Last updated: 2011-02-21Bibliographically approved

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Hanberger, Anders
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