Structure and tension in public and private sector governance: observations from the UK and Australian experience

24 Aug 2004

The past decade has produced significant change in how the public and private sectors operate and the public expectations of their role. In this paper Richard Grant argues that the pressures that have challenged the governance structures of key public and private organisations in the UK and Australia are common to both sectors. He argues that the 'independent regulatory agencies' of the public sector and publicly listed companies in the private sector have evolved in ways that point to a common template of organisational governance and response to crisis. The dynamic of both organisations was forged through the large-scale privatisations of the past decade and the reaction to the loss of collective public ownership.

The paper assesses similarities in the governance of regulatory agencies and listed companies according to four broad criteria: performance, conformance, credibility and trust. It highlights the initial establishment of a principal-agent framework; the politicisation and placement of unrealistic expectations on CEO performance; the subsequent onset of forms of regulatory crisis; a process of restoring trust through a mix of tighter regulation and corporate governance standards; and greater participative consultation among stakeholders. Comparisons between public and private sector governance also identify similarities in the British and Australian experience.

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