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Accountable Governance

Theoretical and conceptual work

Theoretical model: CPA-model

Thomas Schillemans

This paper develops a theoretical model for the study of the effects of accountability mechanisms. The model is based on decades of experimental research on accountability in psychology and other behavioral disciplines. The model integrates some of the most important findings and translates these to the realities of accountability in public administration.


A public administration theory of felt accountability

Sjors Overman & Thomas Schillemans

This article translates and extends the psychological concept of ‘felt accountability’ to public administration. General psychological insights help to understand accountability in public administration yet the specificities of contexts and roles require further theoretical specification. The particular context of accountability in public organizations requires us to integrate knowledge about (1) the diverse professional roles of public sector employees, (2) the saliency and authority of various and multiple account holders, and (3) the substance of the accountability demands. The current article integrates this contextual knowledge with an individual perspective on accountability and focuses on some of the key roles in public administration: mandarins, executives, professionals and street-level bureaucrats


Felt relational accountability: a validated measurement instrument

Sjors Overman, Thomas Schillemans & Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen

This paper develops a validated measurement instrument for accountability on the basis of two samples of public sector employees (N = 2702). The focus is the individual’s perception of accountability; whether or not (s)he feels accountable to some salient other. Three dimensions are identified: does the individual expect to be held accountable for one’s decisions? Is this perceived to be legitimate? And does the account-holder have sufficient expertise to evaluate and judge one’s decisions?


Systematic literature review of experimental accountability studies

Marija Aleksovska, Thomas Schillemans & Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen

This paper provides a comprehensive systematic literature review of five decades of experimental research on accountability. It does so through the lens of public administration: what issues are most important in public administration research on accountability and what lessons can be drawn from experimental research regarding those issues?

The review is based on a database of studies which can be accessed and searched here.


Conceptual framework: social accountability

Lars Brummel

Social accountability (and its many synonyms) is one of the most popular concepts in current research on accountability yet also one of the fuzziest ones. This paper develops a conceptual framework that allows to distinguish social accountability from other concepts and to systematically study how it works.


Theorizing the impact of populist pressures on public sector accountability

Matt Wood, Felicity Matthews, Sjors Overman & Thomas Schillemans

Populism challenges the pluralism and technocratic expertise on which public bureaucracies are based. Extant scholarship has overlooked its effects on accountability processes. In particular, it neglects the impact of anti-elite rhetoric, characterized by what can be regarded as ‘emotionalized blame attribution’, on the thinking and behavior of accountability actors. This article examines the impact of this distinctive form of populist rhetoric on accountability relationships within the bureaucratic state. It identifies three ‘stages’ whereby these populist pressures challenge accountability relationships, threaten the reputation of accountability actors, and result in alternative accountability practices. In doing so, the article provides a roadmap for assessing the impact of anti-elite rhetoric on accountability actions.