Putting the cart before the horse : Accountability or performance?

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

27 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationAustralian Journal of Public Administration
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


Conventional wisdom argues that a good set of performance measures builds accountability and that improved accountability generates better productivity in the organisation. By way of an analysis of a case study in one inland Chinese county, this article shows that the assumed relationship between performance and accountability is more rhetoric than real. In practice, the implementation of performance measurement in local China leads to an accountability paradox, in which enhanced accountability tends to hinder the improvement of government productivity. The implementation of the Chinese target-based responsibility system risks boosting the short term accountability of public employees while undermining the long term productivity of government agencies. With the deepening of China's market-oriented reform, this choice appears to put the cart before the horse. © 2009 National Council of the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

Research Area(s)

  • Accountability, China, Performance measurement