Accountability in Formal and Informal Institutions: A Cross Country Analysis

Joop de Wit, Akinyinka Akinyoade

Research output: Working paperAcademic


The concept and practices of accountability enjoy considerable interest today, not least due to the World Development Report WDR 2004 on service delivery, which formulated the ‘triangle of accountability’ - specifying relations between the poor, service providers, policy makers and politicians. This paper explores accountability starting from realities faced by the poor across countries and diverse institutional contexts. It is postulated that, even while the WDR does acknowledge the importance of clientelism and the risk of politicisation of policy, there is insufficient recognition – especially for the poor and women, but not limited to them- of the power dimensions of accountability, institutionalised inequalities and low claim making powers, access problems and the importance of bribes to get things done. Such issues undermine accountability mechanisms in what may be called ‘modern’ or formal institutional settings. The question arises as to whether there are well performing accountability mechanisms in more traditional/‘indigenous’ or informal institutions and settings, where people may (still) rely on or build on well established and culturally rooted accountability practices. This paper is an initial exploration and analysis of accountability mechanisms in a sample of 22 ‘modern’, ‘indigenous/traditional’ or ‘mixed’ institutions - and attempts to identify patterns of mechanisms that seem to be effective, and to assess conditions that may be conducive to effective accountability arrangements.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationThe Hague
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

SeriesISS Working Papers, General Series

Bibliographical note

ISS-id: 9861


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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