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Controlling bureaucracies with fire alarms: policy instruments and

Since the 1980s, substantial policy competences have flowed toward agencies and regulators, raising the problems of coping with power dispersion in advanced democracies and the European Union (EU) (Jensen et al. 2014). As the editors of the collection put it, for political scientists the first step is to define and carefully operationalize co-ordination and control mechanisms (Ibid.), and to use concepts to map variation and patterns. A classic approach to the identification of control mechanisms is to think in

terms of transaction cost politics (Huber and Shipan 2000: 46). Transactioncost analysis provides the rationale for the adoption of different types of control instruments. Yet, as Huber and Shipan make clear, although there is a rationale for the adoption of control instruments, governments do not adopt them all. There is an element of political cost in adopting a given control tool. Empirically, we see this reflected in the fact that the process of

such provisions give the agency an informational obligation to some relevant external accountee (Bovens 2005; Mulgan 2003). Empirically, informational obligations can vary along two main dimensions.