Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Mills, D & Keast, RL 2012, 'Contractual relationships for better stewardship of privatised critical infrastructures', 16th Annual Conference of the International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM XVI): Contradictions in public management managing in volatile times, Rome, Italy, 11-13 April, IRSPM.


Governments increasingly rely on forms of privatisation to provide critical public infrastructure yet when those infrastructures fail to meet community expectations government bears the political and economic risks, being held accountable by the public as steward for those infrastructures. Reconfiguration of the contractual relationships may achieve better stewardship. Many of the forms of privatization rely on Agency theory prescriptions, conceptualizing organisations and individuals as motivated solely by self-interest. Stewardship theory (Van Slyke 2007) has developed as a complement to Agency theory offering the possibility of contractual relationships which maximize stewardship outcome. Stewardship theory asserts that pro-stewardship factors cause the agent/steward to act in the interests of the principal. This research has interrogated the literature finding that of the pro-stewardship factors, sense of responsibility is pre-eminent and has a significant link to the agent acting as a steward. The research has explored how important it is that the steward feel sense of responsibility and the actions that sense of responsibility. Case studies of privatized core elements of urban water systems infrastructure were explored. Data has been gathered primarily from archival sources and individual interviews of government and private sector executives key to those systems. This paper reports the findings as to the extent of stewardship, how important it is that the steward acts in the interests of the principal, even to the steward’s detriment and the importance of the steward feeling a sense of responsibility. The actions which increase that sense of responsibility will be assembled to position the research to better proceed with the analysis of the data as to these actions.

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