Accountability and relational governance: the case of brainport Eindhoven, the Netherlands

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It has been argued that the new form of relational governance might lead to a substantial deficit of democratic accountability, but in previous studies less attention has been paid to what accountability is and how to systematically analyse it before announcing there are accountability deficits. In order to advance the knowledge of accountability and relational governance, this paper examines the notion of accountability and adopts a conceptual framework of public accountability established by Mark Bovens to conduct a case study of Eindhoven city-regional governance. Eindhoven city-region has been recognised as a successful story of high-tech development and its success is a result of a new form of relational governance—close collaboration between different levels of government and other parties, including high-tech firms and knowledge institutes. Major focus is put on the establishment and operation of the Brainport organizations, which perfectly represents the new form of relational governance in Eindhoven city-region. By mapping its networks of accountability and assessing its accountability arrangement, this paper finds that the degree of the Brainport organizations’ accountability toward the municipal councils differs from municipality to municipality. While the councils of municipal stakeholders of Brainport Development NV may use municipal regular planning and control cycle of annual memorandum, reports, and budget to influence the content and financial frameworks of Brainport organizations’ year plan to certain degree, the councils of non-stakeholder municipalities in Eindhoven city-region can hardly ever influence the decision making of the Brainport organizations. From either the democratic or the learning perspective, the institutional arrangement of the Brainport organizations insufficiently satisfy the criteria of accountability. This indicates large space for improvement. Further, the case study results remind us that comparing to the traditional governance mode the nature of relational governance is rather dynamic. It is a learning by doing process and is constantly shaped by the alteration of national policy as well as of the changing agreements between the municipalities. Thus, it deserves continuously monitoring and investigating the change of city-regional institutional setting and its influences on the accountability arrangement of the relational governance.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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