Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Susan Rose-Ackerman and Peter L. Lindseth
Chapter 16: Understanding Independent Accountability Agencies
John M. Ackerman* Over the past two decades there has been a veritable explosion in the number and power of independent accountability agencies throughout the world (Ackerman 2010). The spread of electoral institutes, ombudsmen, anti-corruption agencies and other oversight institutions has paralleled the equally important upsurge in independent regulatory agencies and new constitutional courts (Jordana and Levi Faur 2006, SCJN 2008). This chapter offers a theoretical approach to understanding the present conditions and future potential of these new independent accountability agencies. It also provides an overview of the different ways in which countries have tried to incorporate these institutions into their respective constitutional frameworks. There is an extensive literature on regulatory agencies and constitutional courts that is helpful in gaining an initial analytical hold on accountability agencies (Stone Sweet 2000, Rose-Ackerman 2007). Nevertheless, it is a mistake to import these analyses wholesale. Independent accountability agencies have their own institutional dynamics and must be understood on their own terms (Vázquez Irizarry 2007). Why are such agencies created? What are their fundamental strengths and weaknesses? What are the most important factors that explain their effectiveness or failure at fulfilling their constitutional mandates? I try to respond to these questions in the first section of this chapter. In the second section, I offer the initial results of a global survey of autonomous agencies in the constitutions of the world. The academic literature includes numerous case studies of specific agencies and countries (Schedler 1999). In addition, there are important international policy networks that...
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