IGS University of Twente
Research Research services PhD & Education Press & Public Information
Friday 2 June 2017, 12:30, Prof.dr. G. Berkhoff-zaal

Phd Defence Jesper George Katomero

Accountability as an element of governmentality: An investigation of national and local executive accountability practices in the water sector Tanzania  

Accountability is a politically contested notion both in its conception and actual implementation. This is because accountability touches upon almost all facets and aspects of the drive for ‘democracy’ and ‘good governance’ which have different interpretations and understandings across countries. Despite the contestation, there is a strong recurrent interest with accountability amongst scholars and practitioners in developing and developed countries alike. This interest emanates from the fact that accountability is often linked to transparency and trustworthiness. This positive framing of accountability has fuelled the drive to strengthen accountability institutions which is believed will fast-track social economic development in developing countries.


In Africa, and Tanzania in particular, international donors increasingly exert influence on governments to embrace accountability reforms as a pre-condition for receiving bilateral and multilateral development aid. This influence is noticeable in the Washington Consensus ideas about economic development and in concomitant funding programs by the World Bank, International Monitory Fund, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and even Non-Governmental Organisations. This is exemplified by World Bank funded programs to improve public service delivery in Africa through the Water Sector Development Programs, Water Sector Reform Programs and the subsequent Water Policies. In this context, accountability is a key determinant in defining power relations between African countries and their western counterparts.

This study sought to answer the research question “how are public officials held to account in Tanzania in the context of water service delivery?” To answer this question, accountability practices in three levels of governance were analysed: national, regional and local, as well as the impact of trans-national arrangements on accountability practices at these levels. The study also examined the potential of enlisting ICT and mobile phone initiatives for enhancing accountability in the water sector.

The results indicate that accountability practices in the water service delivery sector in Tanzania can be understood as an interplay of different and often conflicting governmentalities where conflicting rationalities, mentalities and technologies are intertwined. This gives rise to complex and self-contradictory drivers, the result of which is that formal international donor accountability reforms are difficult to implement and can lead to counterproductive results. Thus, holding national and local level public officials to account should not be understood only through the lenses of principal-agent (PA) and collective-action (CA) theory, because these do not capture all drivers and interactions. In practice, the locally understood informal accountability governmentalities compete with the donor-driven formal accountability governmentalities.

To understand the current situation, it is imperative to consider how important elements of present accountability practices in the water sector in Tanzania have their roots in the historical governmentalities of pre-colonial, colonial, and post-independence periods. The thinking about governance (e.g. power, morality and accountability) during pre-colonial period was based in the bio-politics of agricultural and pro-creational fertility. These ideas, in turn, created a social fabric that informed the governance practices between African rulers and the rest of the society. Although colonialism transformed the social fabric by introducing new colonial governmentalities, it did not destroy completely the pre-colonial governmentalities. After independence the pre-colonial governmentalities re-emerged and became part of the national and local level political process. As a result, public officials, at all levels of government, practice (internal-domestic or external-transnational) extraversion games, all the while advocating for PA or CA inspired reforms. This allows them to be the winning part of a corrupt system and yet, with some credibility, say they are abolishing it, at least intentionally. Leaving the rest of Tanzania to live corruption as 'losers', as 'destiny' or an inescapable 'way of life'. At the same time, donors advocating PA or CA-inspired reforms, by default or by design, keep this system running. Only by quitting their roles do donors help abolish a perverse system and give Tanzanian citizens a chance to hold their government accountable. But this must be coupled with a mentality change among a majority of the Tanzanian people themselves in order to usher in new rationalities and technologies to eliminate extraversion.