Agency Accountability Strategies after Liberalization: Universal Service in the United Kingdom, France, and Sweden
Posted: 19 Aug 2008
Date Written: July, 18 2008
Liberalization of key network industries is often said to reduce accountability by undermining its traditional mechanisms. Liberalization, others say, promotes accountability by creating new channels and mechanisms. This article suggests that neither view is sufficiently nuanced. Accountability comes in many forms, and the question is less how much accountability there is, but what form it takes. And accountability will take different forms in relation to different issues, even within the same organization. Examining accountability in relation to the provision of universal service in electricity and telecommunications, this article demonstrates that in the regimes studied, agencies were generally accountable for providing universal service by deferring, to the maximum possible extent, to political actors or stakeholders. However, when faced with an expert technical question - in this case, determining the costs of the universal service - agencies stressed their professional judgment and transparency. This observation supports a wider hypothesis concerning the conditions under which a variety of agency accountability strategies may be adopted.
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