The effectiveness of accountability mechanisms

There are two aspects to the issue of the effectiveness of accountability mechanisms: first, their effectiveness as a way of influencing public administration; and second, their use and effectiveness as a means of redress.

Effectiveness as a way of influencing public administration

This research agenda has a particular resonance for public law scholarship because it connects so well with the image of public law as a control mechanism over government - a theme which has been sufficiently prevalent in public law thinking that it seems fundamental to the subject (Loughlin, 1992; 2003). However, while so much of public law scholarship places a stress on (and implicitly puts its faith in) the external control of government by various constitutional actors, empirical work about the operation of public bodies and the effectiveness of accountability mechanisms draws our attention to the significance of self-control in our constitution (Daintith and Page, 1999). Much of this body of work demonstrates the considerable barriers that external control mechanisms face in changing internal behaviour.[1]

Although research in this vein is quite varied in focus, the most obvious body of work here is probably that relating to the impact of judicial review on government administration. Quite a lot of empirical research on this issue has now been conducted and is explored in some public law textbooks (e.g. Cane 2004; Harlow and Rawlings, 2009; Elliott and Thomas, 2011). The UK research on judicial impact has also been helpfully reviewed by Richardson (2004), though subsequent important work has also been published (Platt et al., 2010). Other accountability mechanisms such as tribunals (Baldwin et al., 1992), ombudsmen (Hertogh, 2001; Gill, 2010), internal review schemes (Cowan et al., 2006) and compensation claims (Halliday et al., 2011)[2] have also been analysed empirically in terms of their impact on public bodies.

  • [1] For a more optimistic account, however, see Platt et al. (2010).
  • [2] In a comparative study looking mainly at the USA, Epp (2009) also considers the effects oftort litigation on British police.
 
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