Accountability and public–private partnership contracts: un mariage de convenance?

Authored by: Istemi S. Demirag , Iqbal Khadaroo

The Routledge Companion to Public–Private Partnerships

Print publication date:  February  2013
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415781992
eBook ISBN: 9780203079942
Adobe ISBN: 9781136163302


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Accountability is often used to explain certain decisions, behaviours or actions whose outcome may not always be desirable to certain social groups. As it is a subjectively constructed concept, it changes with context. Thus the complex and multi-faceted notion of accountability is often interpreted as a form of stewardship and/or responsibility involving some forms of account giving. In this regard ‘why’, ‘to whom’, ‘for what’ and ‘how’ we give an account will have significant implications for the account receivers. While one set of groups may find the account giving satisfactory in terms of their expectations from the behaviour of the accountor, others may find this completely unsatisfactory. Giving an account of an action or behaviour may therefore involve a complex set of relationships addressed to a particular group of people often with conflicting expectations or needs. How then can we hide behind this complex term of accountability to resolve the conflicting expectations of groups of people? To understand accountability, we need to unpack the complex nature of the relations embedded in it and discuss their relevance in specific context. In this chapter we critically examine the concept of accountability in terms of its new types and forms within the public private partnership (PPP) system of New Public Management (NPM). It is argued that the expectation from accountability in PPPs as a way of improving value for money (VFM) by improving productivity, cost-cutting, contracting out, compartmentalizing and top-slicing is not as clear as one might think. Finally we provide some directions for further research in some of these areas of PPP accountability.

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