Accountability and transparency initiatives hav e taken democratisation, governance, aid and development circles by storm since the turn of th e century. Many actors involved with them – as donors, funders, programme managers, implementers and researchers – are now keen to know more about what these initiatives are achieving. This paper arises from a review of the impact and effectiveness of transparency and accountability initiatives which gathered and analysed existing evidence, discussed how it could be improved, and evaluated how impact and effectiveness could be enhanced. This paper takes the discussion further, by delving into what lies behind the methodological and evaluative debates currently surrounding governance and accountability work. It illustrates how choices about methods are made in the cont ext of impact assessment designs driven by different objectives and different ideological and epistemological underpinnings. We argue that these differences are articulated as methodological debates, obscuring vital issues underlying accountability work, which are about power and politics, not methodological technicalities.