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By J. Steets

Governments and foreign businesses more and more use public-private partnerships to carry crucial public items. This book presents a brand new version of responsibility which guarantees that those partnerships do not erode public responsibility. It defines concrete responsibility criteria for various different types of partnerships.

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Consumers, for example, can hold companies accountable for efficiency by choosing products that, at similar quality, are offered at a cheaper price. Comparison is more difficult in the public and civil society sectors. But donors, for example, increasingly use measures like the ratio of overhead costs to total budget as shorthand for efficiency. Finally, principals can focus on the quality of results. Is the organisation effective and successful in reaching the goals it set for itself? A government that was voted in on the promise to reduce unemployment, for example, may lose subsequent elections if it fails to deliver effective results.

Thus while publications of English language annual reports on the Internet might be appropriate for satisfying the information needs of Western NGOs, they might not be accessible to local communities in the developing world. Here, signs, billboards or public discussions in the local language might be necessary to convey information effectively. Finally, the costs of providing and using information have to be considered. Providing detailed reports and evaluations of an organisation’s activities can be highly complex and requires specialised skills and staff time.

The requirements are often stricter for the public than the private sector and more demanding for taking strategic decisions than for implementing them. 53 Principals demand due diligence from managers and bankers in investment decisions. But the public also holds public agencies and NGOs accountable for ‘not doing their homework properly’. 54 • Transparency: A final crucial set of rules and regulations determines what information an organisation has to provide to whom. As we have seen in the definition of accountability above, access to reliable and useful information is essential to any accountability mechanism.

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