Processes of accountability. Experience from the operative level in swedish local government

University dissertation from Bokförlaget BAS

Abstract: This study is about social and institutional practices of accountability. Firstly, the study develops a framework of accounts. Based on this framework it is argued that accountability arises from practices of using accounts in sequential format in order to influence other's evaluation. Processes of accountability involves in two sequences - sequence of account initiation and sequence of account resolution. By sequence of initiation the emphasis is given to the symbolic power of accounts in calling another to respond on the basis of accusations, criticisms, failure and questions. By sequence of resolution, individuals outline the responses in order to accounts justification, excuses, refusals, or defence. This concern for sequential practices entails a move beyond the ordinary contexts of action and organization to include institution as a constitutive element. Accounts are categorized in terms of their workings characteristics. Categories of vertical, horizontal, responsive, functional, face-saving and relational accounts were presented. The framework developed and employed is that of the theoretical performance. It can be applied to any concrete social establishment - be it private or public organization. The empirical parts of the study focus on the reform of accountability at the operational level by management accounting (termed as vertical accounts). The study shows how individuals in ordinary work situations discuss about their activities, their organizational plan and reporting systems, the ways in which they guide and control accountability by accounts. It reveals the sequential effect by showing how account-givers use a certain category of accounts and avoids the use of other categories. It is concluded that due to influence of accounting, accountability moved from the basis of relational accounts towards the basis of vertical accounts.

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