The Political Economy of Regulatory Agencies: Accountability, Transparency and Effectiveness (ACCOUNTREG)
The rise and diffusion of regulatory agencies during the 1990s has enthroned a particular institutional model of state bureaucracy: the regulatory state. Based on autonomy, independence, and expertise as fundamental elements to the improvement of policy outcomes and economic efficiency, numerous regulatory agencies were established to regulate multiple sectors, including economic and social issues, in countries showing diverse administrative traditions. While democratic legitimacy has been traditionally entwined with accountability, the complex patterns of governance today make it increasingly difficult to determine who is responsible for and how to hold them accountable. Accountability has thus become a far-reaching concern for institutions, being this especially marked in the case of regulatory agencies. Moreover, the independence and autonomy of regulatory agencies raises the problem of accountability.
Moving beyond normative frameworks, this research project will empirically analyze the potential of regulatory agencies for political accountability. Taking accountability as a social relation between the agency and its forum, which includes an heterogeneous array of actors and organizations, the study aims to fulfill the following objectives: 1) To map and assess the transparency and access to information mechanisms of regulatory agencies in a comparative perspective, both in sectoral and national terms; 2) To assess the relations of cooperation and conflict between politicians, public servants, professionals, businessmen, and other stakeholders in the context of regulatory governance; 3) To better understand the policy communities around regulatory agencies, with a particular focus on their forum, their argumentation, and dialogue and justification dynamics; 4) To identify which accountability mechanisms are relevant for the effectiveness of regulatory agencies, as they foster a learning process within both the agency and the broader community.