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Experiencing accountability: the impact of the Osmotherly Rules on the senior responsible owners of major public projects

Hayle, Michael (2020) Experiencing accountability: the impact of the Osmotherly Rules on the senior responsible owners of major public projects. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

Accountability is a characteristic of being a senior civil servant. Calls for them to be more accountable make assumptions about the causal mechanisms that link it to behaviour, and about how these officials experience and manage multiple accountability relationships. Despite the importance of accountability within the public sector there is limited investigation into these assumptions, or how it feels to be accountable from the manager’s perspective. My research uses in-depth interviews with 47 senior officials to investigate their experience of being accountable. The narrative around the problems affecting major public projects in the UK includes the demand for increased accountability of their Senior Responsible Owners (SROs). Recent changes to the Osmotherly Rules, which provide guidance for civil servants giving evidence to parliamentary committees, have created a new accountability mechanism for the SRO. They are now expected to account personally to Parliament for the implementation of their project. The interviews provide an opportunity to investigate how this group of public managers feel about being accountable, how they manage multiple relationships, and their experience of this new mechanism. The analysis shows that they prioritise their account giving activity by assessing the salience of account holders. I propose a typology to illustrate their management of their accountability environment. I argue that being made accountable to Parliament is perceived to have reputational risk for SROs but has not made significant changes to how they feel about being held accountable for their projects. However, it may have a positive impact because of the personal authority it gives them to influence the relationships with their most salient account holders. I show that to understand the effect of adding a new mechanism to a complex environment, it is essential to appreciate how it is perceived by those it is intended to hold accountable.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Michael Hayle
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Page, Edward C. and Berliner, Daniel
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/4156

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