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Accountability in municipality-institution relations: an examination of accountability relations between the municipality of Hengelo and local public institutions

Lammers, Tim (2014) Accountability in municipality-institution relations: an examination of accountability relations between the municipality of Hengelo and local public institutions.

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Abstract:The problem that is researched in this master thesis is the lack of knowledge about the organisation of accountability between the municipality of Hengelo and different local public institutions, in the context of the different tasks, roles and interests the municipality represents. It is researched what aspects play a role in the organisations of accountability between the municipality of Hengelo and different institutions in the public domain, and how these aspects relate to each other. The core of the concept of accountability is that accountability is a mechanism that organises delegations of power over a certain domain from a principal to an agent, in which the agent has the obligation to give account of his conduct to the principal and where the principal has the right to sanction the agent when the agent fails to inform and/or explain or justify his decisions. The content of accountability regards the domain of an accountability relation and the expectations by the principal regarding the duties of the agent in the domain (how and what). These expectations are determined by a normative conception of legitimate behaviour of the agent by the principal, which are grounded in different legitimacy claims. The context of an accountability relation is determined by the different types of power sources that are available to a principal. The availability or absence of formal-, economic, or knowledge power sources determines the extent to which a principal can ‘rule’ over an agent. There may, however, be other principals that also have a certain power over the agent. This complicates and influences the process of accountability between the municipality and an institution. The process of accountability involves different steps. Within these steps, different communications between the principal and the agent shape the accountability relation. The content and context of a relation converge into a process of different steps that together constitute an accountability relation. For the research, a comparative case study design is chosen. Five (semi-)public institutions are selected. In order to increase reliability and validity, document analyses as well as in-depth interviews are used as methods of data-collection. Regarding the operations for the variables content, context and process of accountability and their different dimensions, it is shown the three variables are interrelated and it requires a certain level of flexibility to fine tune the operation to the specific case. In the relationships between the municipality of Hengelo and different public institutions, the content of an accountability relation is often shaped by a mixture of different expectations and aims. Regarding the creation of content, five things are striking: there can be different levels of specificity of expectations; there can be internal policy competition problems; there can be external policy competition problems; the determination of content may be disconnected; and finally, formalised and informal expectations may be disconnected. Different contextual aspects play a role in the different cases. In the case of Stadsbank Oost-Nederland (SON), the municipality holds an extent of formal and economic power over SON. However, due to the participation in the joint regulation, a large part of the power has to be shared with the other participating municipalities, creating in interdependence relation to these municipalities. Furthermore, the specificity of the tasks executed by SON and the fact that an exit option is not an obvious option, a makes the municipality relatively dependent on SON for the execution of their formal debt assistance tasks. In the case of Ziekenhuisgroep Twente (ZGT), the municipality is in a dependent rather than a powerful position towards ZGT, which makes it difficult to speak of a real principal-agent relation. The relation between the municipality and CREA is rather hierarchical, based on the economic power the municipality can exert on CREA. Finally, the relation between Primato and the municipality is multifaceted, based on the different formal and economic sources of power and different hierarchical positions. In the accountability relations between the municipality of Hengelo and different public institutions, the process of accountability is ongoing. This means there is not an actual process with an assignable beginning or ending in which content and context are ‘determined’. Rather, it is a cycle of adjustment and reassessment. Second, accountability takes place on different levels and in different timespans. Third, there might be a disconnection between the content of an accountability relation and the process of accountability. Fourth, difficulties are perceived regarding the different organisational layers in relation to the process of accountability. Finally, there is a problem of the so-called role perception.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Clients:
Gemeente Hengelo
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:88 social and public administration
Programme:Public Administration MSc (60020)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/66497
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