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How Much Are Citizen Perceptions of Fiscal Accountability Influenced by Government Transparency, Information Access, and Participation Opportunities?

PFM, Vol. 17 No. 4, (2017)

Anecdotal and empirical evidence points to a decline of citizen trust in government in the U.S. Distrust of government related to fiscal matters often occurs because information about accountability is not communicated. This study examines factors that may influence citizen perceptions of their local government’s fiscal accountability. We focus specifically on seven local governments in the Hampton Roads, Virginia region of the U.S. We measure citizens’ perception of local government finances using survey responses to five questions related to responsible spending, financial reporting, and educating and informing citizens of government finances. Our study examines the relationship of levels of transparency, information accessibility, and participation opportunities to citizens’ perceptions of government’s fiscal accountability. We expect that residents in cities with high levels of transparency and information accessibility and participatory processes will perceive their local government’s fiscal accountability more positively. However, our results do not support these expectations since the level of perceived fiscal accountability is non-variant across the cities irrespective of the varying levels of transparency, information accessibility, and participation opportunities. These findings suggest there may be different values associated with a range of administrative activities thought to be critical antecedents for informing and engaging citizens to enhance perceptions of accountability.

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