The Views of Councillors and Managers on Accountability in Local Government: An Empirical Study in Australia

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Kluvers, Ron and Tippett, John (2011) The Views of Councillors and Managers on Accountability in Local Government: An Empirical Study in Australia. International Journal of Management, 28 (2). pp. 519-527. ISSN 0813-0183


This empirical study is an attempt to understand the impact of the new public management (NPM) on accountability within Victorian local government. The NPM – a private-sector version of management that has been imported into the public sector, resulting in a more “business-like” management style that emphasises efficiency, performance measurement and contracting out – has changed the parameters of public decision-making. Public decision-making has become more concerned with “process” and compliance, particularly measurement and in-house reporting, and less concerned with effective service delivery and interaction with the key stakeholder – the public. It is appropriate to consider the effect of the NPM on the concept of accountability held by staff and councillors of Victorian municipalities. Data were collected from 79 Victorian municipalities. A survey instrument was distributed to 474 councillors and 553 managers (sample size 1027), with survey statements eliciting participants’ understanding of accountability. There were 325 responses (113 councillors, 212 managers), response rate approximately 32 per cent. Using factor analysis, four factors were generated that reveal the effect of the NPM on the understanding of accountability. We have named the factors: NPM-accountability (17.661 per cent of variance), new accountability defined (11.922 per cent of variance), management processes (10.169 per cent of variance), and accountability avoidance (9.130 per cent of variance). Our findings agree with the literature that, over the last few decades, accountability has moved away from the traditional stewardship notion of accountability and toward managerial accountability. Respondents’ views revealed an emphasis of key elements of the NPM – performance, outputs and financial reporting – thereby associating accountability with private sector business-like behaviour.

Item type Article
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Economics and Finance
Historical > FOR Classification > 1501 Accounting, Auditing and Accountability
Historical > SEO Classification > 970115 Expanding Knowledge in Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Keywords ResPubID24120, councillors, managers, accountability, local governmentnew, new public management, public decision-making, Australia
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