Holding Government Bureaucracies Accountable

By Bernard Rosen | Go to book overview

hold third parties accountable effectively has not kept pace. Project grants, formula grants, loan guarantees, and regulation are quite different tools in the operation of this shared authority. "What makes the existence of different tools so important . . . is that each instrument has its own characteristics, its own procedures, its own network of organizational relationships, its own skill requirements. . . . each of these tools is really a complex system of action and actors. Each has its own personality and its own internal and external pressures."46

Thus, there are great differences in the kinds of organizations exercising the shared authority. Other governments, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations vary widely in size, competence, and culture. While a government agency can share its authority with one or more proxies, it cannot relinquish its responsibility for achieving the purposes for which it was authorized and funded.

Similar problems in accountability, but further complicated by issues of sovereignty, arise in connection with the national government's expenditures through contributions to international organizations. The key issue that needs to be addressed in each instance is how much and what kind of accountability should be established to protect the public interest while permitting the degree of independence required to achieve desired results.

Another dimension of this problem was highlighted by the General Accounting Office when it reported the results of a study on contracting by federal agencies. Evidencing concern about the pervasive influence of consultants on government functions, GAO noted that the advisory role of contractors may become so extensive that it "limits agencies' ability to develop options other than those proposed by the contractor."47 This would impair an agency's ability to control policies and programs and thereby weaken accountability.

Government by proxy complicates the process for holding government bureaucracies accountable because "it fragments power, obscures who is doing what, and severs lines of control."48 In addition, there is considerable evidence of agencies failing to define precisely the requirements placed on third parties and related estimates of costs. These are fundamental to developing and applying specific strategies that will obtain desired performance as to quality, quantity, timeliness, and cost from third-party government.


NOTES
1.
"Job Satisfaction", Working for America: An Update ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 1996).
2.
64 Stat. 832.
3.
Public Law 103-62.

-59-

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