Holding Government Bureaucracies Accountable

By Bernard Rosen | Go to book overview

2 Public Administrators: Accountable to Whom?

Experienced public administrators know that, aside from power to hire and fire, lines of accountability are strongest to those who control the administrator's responsibilities, authority, and resources. Without these there is nothing to administer. In the national government, basic accountability relationships have their origins in checks and balances created by the Constitution. James Madison put it succinctly: "You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."1 Justice Louis Brandeis stated the issue in another way, but with equal clarity: "The doctrine of the separation of powers was adopted by the Convention in 1787, not to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power."2

The separate branches of government are not isolated from each other. Equally important, they are not isolated from political, economic, and social forces within the nation. The administrator is part of a hierarchy, and while hierarchy is important in helping to establish lines of accountability, there is more to accountability than chain of command.

For example, an administrator, appointed by the chief executive to head a major program within a department based on the strong recommendation of a powerful interest group or the chairman of an appropriations subcommittee that deals with that agency, will very likely view his accountability as going beyond simple administrative hierarchy. To do otherwise carries substantial risk, as the head of an agency quickly learned during the Nixon administration. Traditionally, recommendations of veterans organizations have been pivotal in the president's decision to appoint an administrator

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Holding Government Bureaucracies Accountable
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Part I - The Substance of Accountability 1
  • 1 - Public Administrators: Accountable for What? 3
  • Notes 17
  • 2 - Public Administrators: Accountable to Whom? 19
  • Notes 31
  • Part II - The Processes of Accountability 33
  • 3 - Accountability Processes Within the Executive Branch 35
  • Notes 59
  • 4 - Accountability Mechanisms and Methods Used by the Legislative Branch 63
  • Notes 88
  • 5 - Citizen Participation in the Accountability Processes 91
  • Notes 115
  • 6 - Judicial Review of Administrative Actions 117
  • Notes 134
  • 7 - Other Instruments for Accountability 137
  • Notes 172
  • Part III - The Future 177
  • 8 - New Initiatives for Improving Accountability 179
  • Notes 205
  • 9 - In Retrospect 209
  • Notes 221
  • Selected Bibliography 223
  • Index 225
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