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The circuitous path of democracy : legislative control of the bureaucracy in presidential regimes : the case of Mexico

  • Author(s): Ríos C., Alejandra
  • et al.
Abstract

My research identifies conditions for legislators in emerging presidential democracies to achieve bureaucratic accountability, one of the least studies aspects of legislative politics. To better explain legislators' ability to hold the bureaucracy accountable, I develop a theoretical model of oversight in which resource constraints (i.e., capabilities) and electoral motivations and policy preferences (i.e., incentives) explain legislators' behavior. The model shows that legislators' oversight of bureaucratic behavior is always selective. Legislators' strategy responds to the relevance of every policy area and to legislators' resources for monitoring bureaucratic agencies. Given limited resources, legislative oversight is necessarily discriminatory. An important corollary is that bureaucratic accountability is never complete : There will always be policy areas that are systematically neglected on the oversight agenda. This situation worsens in the absence of alternative mechanisms to keep bureaucratic behavior under control (such as effective legislation to access public information). The model also shows that bureaucratic agencies respond strategically to legislators' actions depending on the probability of being sanctioned. To evaluate my theory, I analyze local legislatures in Mexico (1995-2005). The qualitative analysis shows that Mexican legislators have strong constitutional resources to control and oversee their functioning. However, feeble resources prevent them for making use of the most important strategic device of bureaucratic control (setting the margin of discretion for bureaucratic agencies) and force local legislatures to make use of an active and direct strategy of legislative ex post monitoring : the annual review of public accounts (fiscalización de cuentas públicas) which is usually done by an auxiliary legislative institution, commonly known as supreme auditing institution (SAIs) (chapter three). I also present the analysis of the legislation that regulates SAIs in four Mexican states and show that electoral uncertainty usually works as an incentive to strengthen the legal powers of SAIs ; however, it also has an opposite effect if it increases the fragmentation of power within the legislature (chapter four). In sum, the analysis of how local legislators aim to control the bureaucracy shows that bureaucratic accountability needs resources (e.g., constitutional powers, professional legislators or professional staff) and incentives that help to break the endogenous character of the problem

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