Administrative learning or political blaming? Public servants, parliamentary committees and the drama of public accountability
In theory, within Westminster systems the buck stops with the minister. Ministers are responsible for the actions of their departments and accountable for policy outcomes. In practice, it is often senior public servants rather than their ministerial masters who face the fierce questions of parliamentary committees when things go wrong. This article uses dramaturgy theory and blame theory to assess whether the nature of the parliamentary committee setting encourages or inhibits opportunities for a 'learning' type of accountability. Through a comparative study of committee appearances by public servants in the UK and Australia, the article argues that the adversarial nature of committee hearings encourages 'blame games' that do little to guarantee better decision-making in the future.
Australian Journal of Political Science
Policy and Administration not elsewhere classified
Political Science not elsewhere classified