Beyond Accountability: Political Legitimacy and Delegated Water Governance in Australia


Studies of delegated agencies commonly emphasize the importance of accountability for these unelected bodies to secure authority to govern. This article argues that beyond formal accountability measures, developing legitimacy through interaction with external stakeholders is critical to agency authority. In doing so, the article makes a distinctive contribution by applying a new conceptual model based on organizational sociology and identifying multiple dimensions along which legitimacy is lost and won, and hence authority secured. The article presents original findings from a case study of how the Murray–Darling Basin Authority, an Australian water agency established in 2007, attempted to achieve ‘political legitimacy’. Findings show that the Agency achieved legitimacy via appeals to common normative/ethical values and developing commonly used information and news outlets, despite facing opposition from stakeholders on the socioeconomic impact of its policies. The conclusion argues that the framework can usefully be applied to other agencies in ‘wicked problem’ policy areas

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    White Rose Research Online

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    This paper was published in White Rose Research Online.

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