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Framing public sector accountability in uncertain context
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Several studies have broadened the conceptualisation of accountability, but within the public sector, there has been a limited examination of the difficulties associated with the operationalisation of accountability in uncertain contexts. The contemporary notions of public sector accountability based on New Public Management (NPM) principles have created tensions that remain largely unexplained in current literature. These tensions underlie some of the difficulties and cynicism related to the manner in which public sector organisations recognise and discharge their accountability obligations. Using an exploratory case, this study makes a useful contribution to this area by proposing that under conditions of uncertainty and complexity, institutionalized practices flourish as public institutions strive for greater legitimacy within their larger institutional environments to enhance reputation and compete for resources. The findings of the study reveal that in uncertain contexts, a much stronger accountability arises from normative obligations, whereas NPM accountability focus on control and assurance is relatively weak. Framing accountability in terms of normative obligations will help recognise the learning and development dimension of accountability.