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Fictional Citizens And Real Effects: Accountability to Citizens in Competitive and Monopolistic Markets

PAM, Vol. 14 No. 2, (2009)

This paper evaluates the influence of market conditions – (semi) competitive versus monopolistic markets –on (the effects of) citizen accountability on public sector organisations. Empirical material from case studies in education, healthcare, social security and land registry in the Netherlands is presented. The cases are analyzed in terms of types of citizen accountability and effects on policies of public sector organizations. The explorative research showed that Dutch public service organizations increasingly account to citizens through a variety of arrangements. The effects of citizen accountability are modest but different for competitive and monopolistic markets. Public sector organizations in competitive markets have increased their focus on both client demands and performance (in the form of performance indicators) whereas those in monopolistic markets enhanced their focus only on specific client demands. Interestingly, these effects do not take place because citizens actually call public sector organizations to account but merely because public sector organisations anticipate that they could be called to account. The paper provides an important addition to theories about citizen accountability by showing that ‘fictional citizens’ have real effects both in (semi) competitive and monopolistic markets.

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