The legal structures of responsible government and ministerial responsibility

17 Jul 2012

The public administration reforms contained in the Public Service Act 1999 (Cth), Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (Cth) and Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (Cth) apparently devolve ‘responsibility’ to Agency Heads, Chief Executives and Directors respectively.

This article surveys these framework legal arrangements applying to the executive and then documents the formal involvement of Ministers to assess the notions of responsible government and ministerial responsibility. The article concludes that the real and practical advance of devolution in the public administration reforms has been to distinguish between the spheres of activities of Ministers and public servants.

As a consequence, there is a more nuanced understanding of responsible government and ministerial responsibility. It is seen that the ‘responsibilities’ of Ministers are separated from those of Agency Heads/Chief Executives/Directors, albeit the Ministers remain the conduit between the executive and the Parliament.

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