Perspectives of Accountability

Stream: Panel 87 - Environmental Politics: Cooperation and Conflict over Water and Forests 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.00 pm

Abstract

Good governance demands accountability. It’s “one of those golden concepts that no one can be against” (Bovens et al 2008). Accountability underpins democratic societies, ensuring governments act in the interests of the public with respect to the use of public money and exercise of power. Accountability is taken here as a mechanism, with this being a deliberative process of inquiry, followed by sanctions or consequences, can build a shared understanding across stakeholders, demonstrate implementation of agreements and provide a forum to drive change. Governments with poor accountability can find their legitimacy and ability to govern eroded. Despite bilateral agreement in 2012, water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin remains contentious, with conflict between the rights of irrigators and environmental needs, with emerging claims of unjust costs to regional communities. The science remains debated, with pressure mounting to demonstrate social, economic and environmental benefits. This ongoing conflict combined with complex multi-level governance arrangements and political demands to deliver on past commitments makes accountability particularly challenging to do, but critical to get right. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is approaching its first five year review. For some, this is an opportunity to validate past decisions, while for others it’s an opportunity for protest to rescind the Basin Plan. It is now timely to determine what accountability really means and how it is being provided in the Murray-Darling Basin. Shortfalls in accountability and ensuing implications for ongoing conflict, science and learning are identified. Bovens et al.’s (2008) accountability assessment tool is tested and refinements recommended.

Author

Lyndal Hasselman (Presenter), IGPA, University of Canberra
Lyndal has worked in policy development, implementation and evaluation of natural resource management for over 10 years. Her experience spans private and public and includes roles within State and Federal government. Consequently Lyndal brings significant insights on practical implementation of governance theories to her doctoral research. Lyndal’s research is examining the relationship between accountability and adaptive management in multilevel governance, drawing on the Murray-Darling Basin as her case study.
During her PhD Lyndal has contributed to other research including marketised governance and environmental watering communication. Lyndal also continues to work privately as a consultant in evaluation and strategic planning.