The accountability of governments to their citizens is usually framed within a relationship of principal and agent in which the government, as agent, is obliged to answer to the citizens as agents. It is also commonly located within a structure of representative democracy where political leaders are elected by, and answerable to, the voters. However, these two theoretical frames do not adequately capture the relations of government to their citizens or the parameters of government accountability. Governments increasingly operate through non-hierarchical networks that are not subject to the vertical accountability assumed in principal-agent theory. Instead, networks offer alternative, informal accountability mechanisms based on horizontal relationships. These are evident, for example, in the responsiveness of professionals to their clients and the mutual accountability of network members to one another. These mechanisms have a sufficient share in the characteristics normally associated with accountability, including the obligations to inform, discuss, and accept consequences, for them to count as mechanisms of accountability in the usual sense. Redefinition of accountability, for instance to exclude the requirement of answering to another person or body, while understandable, is not essential. Accountability mechanisms also function without the support of effective democratic elections. For instance, formal institutions of horizontal accountability, such as courts and anti-corruption agencies, can operate in non-democratic regimes and are better seen as conditions of representative democracy rather than as consequences. Partially democratic or authoritarian regimes also exhibit various forms of social accountability in which civil society organizations call governments directly to account without recourse to state-based agencies of accountability. Large authoritarian regimes can encourage limited accountability processes as a means of bringing public pressure to bear on recalcitrant cadres. To be effective, however, all such measures require at least some legally robust support from government institutions.
Government organizational silos have been blamed for a multitude of sins. Yet they have proved to be resilient, principally because they provide opportunities for centralized government, political control over the bureaucracy, and the prospect of rapid decision-making, effective implementation, and support for economic development. But silos often also suffer from serious dysfunctions that impede smooth progress from decision to action. Their relationships with other government, private, and third-sector organizations frequently reflect inadequate horizontal coordination, a failure to communicate and to share information, and disputes over funding and jurisdictional responsibilities. It is instructive to compare how countries in Europe and Asia view government silos and attempt to deal with their shortcomings. Radical reforms in Europe have mitigated some dysfunctions by creating flatter structures, decentralized organizations, and improved horizontal coordination within government and between government, the market, and society. But the reforms have not entirely overcome the “silos mentality,” which may result in failure to share information and may affect implementation. Nor have European governments entirely overcome the tendency to reintroduce centralization and more rigid hierarchies when faced with problems. In Asia, silos continue to be a dominant and valued organizational feature of most governments because they are seen to have an important role in maintaining political stability and promoting economic development. Although political leaders acknowledge their weaknesses and there have been some efforts to improve horizontal coordination, particularly in crisis management, the macro-level public sector reforms that dismantling the silos would entail has not been on the agenda. On both continents, resolving the problems of the silos and finding the right mix between vertical and horizontal coordination remain major challenges.
Christoph Knill, Christina Steinbacher, and Yves Steinebach
Modern policymaking becomes an ever more complex and fragmented endeavor: Across countries, the pile of public policies is continuously growing. The risk of unintended interactions and ineffective policies increases. New and cross-cutting challenges strain the organizational setup of policymaking systems. Against this background, policy integration is assumed to present an antidote by improving the coherence, consistency, and coordination of public policies as well as of the processes that produce these policy outputs. Although various research attempts focus on policy integration, common concepts and theories are largely missing. The different facets of the phenomenon have only been covered disproportionally and empirical analyses remained fragmented. On these grounds, a more comprehensive and systematic view on policy integration is needed: To cope with complexity, governments are required to streamline and reconcile their products of policymaking (i.e., every single policy). Here, policymakers need to check for interactions with policies already adopted on the same level as well as with policies put in place by other levels of government (e.g., subnational). Moreover, policy integration also implies the creation and development of policymaking processes that systematically link political and administrative actors across various policy arenas, sectors, and levels. By elaborating on these process and product components of policy integration as well as on their horizontal and vertical manifestations, the different perspectives on policy integration are synthesized and embedded into a systematic framework. On the basis of this scheme of identifying four policy integration categories, it becomes clear that there are still loopholes in the literature. As these blind spots culminate in the absence of almost any concept on vertical policy process integration, a way of capturing the phenomenon is introduced through arguing that vertical policy process integration depends on the structural linkages between the policy formulation at the “top” and the implementation level at the “bottom.” More precisely, it is necessary to take account of the extent to which the policy producers have to carry the burden of implementation, and the degree to which the implementers can influence the policy design over the course of formulation. The proposed framework on policy integration is intended to serve as a guide for future research and to help to identify those aspects of policy integration in which further research efforts are required. Only in this way can policy integration as a theoretical and empirical concept be applied systematically across policy contexts—covering different countries, levels, and sectors— and serve as a stimulus for better policymaking.