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Title: The accountability state : US federal inspectors general and the pursuit of democratic integrity, 1978-2012
Author: Hilliard, Nadia
ISNI:       0000 0004 6500 5785
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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US federal inspectors general (IGs), have proliferated across the government since 1978. However, the success of the IGs in effecting accountability, and the import of the kind of accountability they bring, has been little studied by public administration scholars; much of the existing scholarship offers, at best, qualified endorsement of their work. Similarly, few democratic theorists have considered the significance of the multiplying 'monitory' bodies of accountability - of which the IGs are a prominent example - in contemporary democracies. Using evidence provided in a historical overview of the IG community and three detailed case studies of IGs (Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security), I argue that despite certain failures and limitations, the IGs play an important and unrecognised role in the process of democratic accountability. They do not always contribute successfully to 'direct' accountability in the form of sanctions and immediate bureaucratic reforms, and indeed, at times have undermined the very efficiency and integrity they are tasked with promoting. However, their import lies primarily in their enabling function as narrative-builders and conduits of information in a wider 'web of accountability'. Their narratives are used instrumentally by the courts, Congress, the media and civil society; they thus have an indispensable function as legitimate and 'neutral' sources of information in processes of public accountability. I contribute to three distinct literatures in making this argument. First, I make numerous concrete claims about the micro-foundations of the process of accountability, and thus address certain concerns of public administration scholars. These propositions regard the factors that condition the success and form of accountability that is effected by inspectors general (as preserving either efficiency or democratic values), and are supported by the historical narratives in the three case studies. Second, I contribute to the burgeoning field of 'accountability studies' by attempting to link these micro-foundations to a specification of the meaning of public accountability and its relation to broader democratic values. Third, I offer evidence for democratic theorists, who ask how contemporary democratic values and legitimacy are affected by processes of accountability.
Supervisor: King, Desmond Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available