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Pina Puntillo



The main aim of this paper is to analyze how the yearly budget of public entities may be used as a tool of social accountability. The interest in researching this topic roots in a change in management style, from a bureaucratic kind, based on the formulation of rules and limitations, and on the more formal than substantial control of the civil servants’ compliance with the former, to a “post-bureaucratic” kind of management (Maroy, 2005), essentially founded on the evaluation of how efficiently resources are exploited. In this context, the term “accountability” refers to the set of techniques which may be used to measure and evaluate the results delivered by the administrative bodies, as well as the impacts on the community (Patton, 1992). The process of accountability confers to the subjects in question the legitimization of their own behaviour. The disposition to being “accountable” started in public administrations half-way through the 1980s, with its first firmly rooted appearance in the United States and Great Britain, and subsequently spread to the whole Western world. The process of accountability aims at providing transparency in the use of the public sector’s scarce resources, as well as inducing management bodies to assume the responsibility of their actions and the resulting outcomes, taking into account initial objectives, collective needs, and the concrete fulfilment of said needs. Guarini (2003) relates accountability to the concept of public responsibility, against the value produced for the community. The concept pivotal to the idea of accountability is the perpetual relation between the level of autonomy and the responsibilities towards the stakeholders, a condition that heavily burdens government bodies.
The role of accountability is that of bridging the gap between the choices made by politico-institutional bodies and stakeholders’ expectations, promoting the latter’s participation in the processes of planning and reporting on institutional activities. The mechanisms and systems of accountability change according to the historical, geographic, and cultural context in question, but also in accordance with the subject’s organization, the typology of activities carried out by the latter, the level of government, and the tools with which it is carried out.
The budget is included in the interpretative model of accountability requirements. The latter originate in mechanisms of representation and mandate, and refer to the proxies conferred to the entities delegated with the management and administration of public affairs by virtue of an electoral mandate. Indeed, through politico-administrative elections, those appointed represent the voters themselves, together with the latter’s various interests.
The public budget fulfils accountability requirements, whilst at the same time also fulfilling the demand for responsibility, since it summarizes the value of both the resources employed for the satisfaction of social needs, and that of the outcomes generated by public action. Therefore, the budget meets the demand for transparency, and expresses the right/duty of accountability and responsibility of and to politicians, administrative bodies, employees, citizens (both as users and taxpayers), and other related governmental institutions.
After exploring the concept of social accountability, the paper will focus on the aspects of the public budget which make it a suitable tool of social accountability, showing how the shift from the New Public Management (NPM) paradigm to the Public Governance paradigm has strengthened and more clearly defined said role.

Keywords: Public Accountability, Budget

How to cite this paper: Puntillo, P. (2013). Analyzing the potentiality of the government budget in the framework of public accountability. Corporate Ownership & Control, 11(1-2), 243-258.