Concentrated Hopes, Diffused Responsibilities: Accountability in Public-Private Partnerships
39 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2012 Last revised: 30 Jan 2012
Date Written: April 1, 1999
Public-private partnerships have emerged, in the last couple of decades, as a new institutional arrangement through which to deal with a variety of key societal concerns, such as environmental improvement, regional and urban economic development, and educational reforms. Despite the rapid growth in their number, scope, and influence, there is still a need for considerable theoretical and empirical work exploring the nature of these multi-sectoral collaborative arrangements. One area of inquiry in which little scholarly work has been conducted is the topic of accountability mechanisms in public-private partnerships. As the focus of this paper, we explore this topic by first identifying some of the basic properties of these partnerships as they differ from traditional hierarchical organizations. We then analyze five different accountability mechanisms that have been used to historically to enhance the accountability of public as well as private organizations. These mechanisms include bureaucratic, political, professional, legal, and market approaches to accountability. Our analysis summarizes the basic characteristics of these five approaches to accountability and examines the potential relevance of each for accountability in the context of public-private partnerships. In light of the various weaknesses of these traditional approaches, we then propose a number of guidelines regarding three alternative approaches to accountability that are more consistent with the basic nature and purpose of public-private partnerships. We conclude the paper with some brief comments regarding possible future directions for research on accountability in public-private partnerships.
Keywords: Accountability, Public-Private Partnerships, Networks, Collaborative Governance
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