Accountability Pressure and Intraorganizational Dynamics in Japan’s Public Procurement

AuthorYoshinobu Nakanishi
Published date01 April 2023
Date01 April 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Administration & Society
2023, Vol. 55(4) 696 –725
© The Author(s) 2023
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00953997221147237
Accountability Pressure
and Intraorganizational
Dynamics in Japan’s
Public Procurement
Yoshinobu Nakanishi1
Public accountability may involve dysfunction. However, few empirical studies
explain when and how external accountability pressure and subsequent
intraorganizational dynamics cause dysfunctions. To bridge this gap, using a
case study method, we examined Japan’s public procurement after a series
of scandals, focusing on the procurers’ cognition and behavior. First, we
found that an administrative unit in a ministry leverages external pressure to
enhance its power within the organization. Second, we identified bias toward
procedural accountability rather than product accountability. Third, we noted
the paradox that the excessive pursuit of procedural accountability undermines
not only product accountability, but also procedural accountability.
case study, procedural accountability, product accountability, public
administration reform, public procurement
Accountability plays a crucial role in modern public administration (Willems
& Van Dooren, 2011), ensuring that public authorities comply with rules and
procedures to prevent fraud and abuse of power. It also provides citizens with
1Toyo University, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Corresponding Author:
Yoshinobu Nakanishi, Faculty of Business Administration, Toyo University, 5-28-20 Hakusan,
Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8606, Japan.
1147237AAS0010.1177/00953997221147237Administration & SocietyNakanishi
Nakanishi 697
opportunities to control public authorities, thus, improving public authorities’
Besides such roles, accountability also involves dysfunction. However,
while such dysfunctions are unanticipated consequences of inter- and intra-
organizational dynamics, they have been insufficiently examined. In particu-
lar, the influence of external accountability pressure on intraorganizational
dynamics requires further examination. To bridge these gaps, this study ana-
lyzes the accountability pressure imposed on Japan’s public procurement
after a series of scandals such as bid-rigging events and related intraorganiza-
tional dynamics that led to other problems. That is, we investigated the rela-
tionship between external and internal accountability pressure, which
Romzek and Dubnick (1987) differentiated.
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. First, we review the
literature to clarify research gaps in the existing theory. Next, we explain the
research design, setting, data, and method. We then describe the case of
Japan’s public procurement, which we explain from the accountability per-
spective in the subsequent section. In the discussion section, we interpret and
compare the results with assertions in the literature, based on which we
develop propositions. Finally, we present the theoretical and practical impli-
cations as well as the study’s limitations.
Theoretical Background
Accountability has been examined in various domains, such as political sci-
ence, public administration, social psychology, law, and business administra-
tion (Bovens et al., 2014). As a result, its definition is contested (Dubnick,
2014). This article refers to Bovens’ (2007, p. 450) definition: accountability
is “a relationship between an actor and a forum, in which the actor has an
obligation to explain and to justify his or her conduct, the forum can pose
questions and pass judgment, and the actor may face consequences.” This
definition fits this study’s objectives because, first, it focuses on the relation-
ship between actors (accountability holdees) and forums (the locus where
accountability holders hold holdees accountable). This is consistent with this
study’s scope, which focuses on the cognition and behavior of accountability
holders and holdees. Second, it emphasizes consequence, which includes not
only favorable evaluations and rewards, but also formal and informal sanc-
tions (Bovens, 2007). Expectations and fears of consequences are important
factors for the current analysis, as they form the behavior of accountability
holdees. Third, this definition considers accountability holdees’ obligation to

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