Accountability has long been recognized as the cornerstone of successful public management.
In an environment of proliferating partnerships, the tools of government needed to maintain accountability are not the same as those needed for insular agency activities. PPPs change the dynamics of public accountability by involving private partners in government decision making and program delivery. The terms and conditions of this involvement deserve careful scrutiny and understanding by public oﬃcials, before entering into a PPP, as private partners enter into these arrangements for diﬀerent reasons than governments. While governments work to serve the public in capital investment projects, private partners are understandably focused on recouping their investment and on generating a proﬁt. Accountability in PPPs requires the creation of proper safeguards to ensure that public services are not compromised for the sake of private proﬁts.
In this sense, public entities need to consider not only the mechanisms they will use to hold their private partners accountable, but also how government will be accountable to their private partners. In place of vertical chains of authority in typical bureaucratic institutions, or principal–agent relations in short-term contracts, the horizontal relations in PPP arrangements place unique challenges on public managers. PPPs display a variety of these horizontal relationships through collaborative mixing, consensual decision making, and other recognized characteristics of organizational partnerships. While these characteristics vary, the nature of such agreements fosters organizational interdependence at greater levels than that achieved through short-term contracts.
Thus, Public sector employees are called upon to serve many, sometimes conflicting stakeholders through both informal and formal control mechanisms. Informally, public managers’ report not only to a multitude of elected officials, but also to a plethora of interest groups, clientele, media, and other actors.