Moving away from hierarchy: do horizontality, partnerships and distributed governance really signify the end of accountability?
Improving accountability arrangements does not necessarily improve performance, but the proposition that there can be improved performance in the absence of improved accountability. is a proposition that cannot be sustained. (Aucoin and Heintzman 2000) Canadian scholars of public administration are still recovering from the feast of debate, proposals, and counter-proposals for improved accountability in government that surrounded the Gomery Inquiry into the sponsorship program. In recent years, we have over-indulged in a specific approach to accountability that concentrates on increased controls and oversight. To be sure, accountability is still an important issue for public management at all levels of government in Canada, although how we think about accountability and apply approaches that are appropriate for the complexities of contemporary governance needs to change. During the Gomery interlude, inherently complex, horizontal issues involving multi-level governance and collaboration across sectors were pushed aside, but they have not fallen off the table entirely. As .the federal government refocuses on some of these issues, the challenge returns to how to make accountability work in a horizontal as well as in a vertical direction. The web of rules, accounting and parliamentary officers, and procurement controls that were products of the Gomery-era solutions are designed to work through and reinforce the vertical dimensions of hierarchy in a bureaucracy; they will not solve the issues of accountability in horizontal, distributed governance initiatives.
From New Public Management to New Political Governance