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What Public Authority Really Means

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A public authority is an organization that is controlled by a government or that derives authority from a government such that a government is accountable for it. The following are the basic types of public authority.

Branch of Government

In the broadest sense, a public authority is any organization that is controlled by a government. This includes executive, legislative and judicial branches of government at the national, regional and municipal level. A public authority also includes all government departments and any other organizations controlled by a government.

Chartered Organizations

In some cases, a government grants special authority to organizations that it doesn't control. These organizations can be viewed as a public authority because they are deriving entitlements from government authority and resources. For example, a chartered bank that has the authority to issue bank accounts that are insured by the government.

Public-Benefit Corporation

In the United States, public authority is specific type of public-benefit corporation that is established by government to participate in the economy. Such organizations are designed to be self-funding such that they provide a service to the economy without requiring public funds. For example, an airport authority that funds airport infrastructure with fees imposed on travelers, airlines and vendors. Such organizations may enjoy both authority granted by the government and far more autonomy than a government department.
Overview: Public Authority
Definition (1)
Any organization that is controlled by a government.
Definition (2)
Any organization that is controlled by a government or that is granted special authority by a government.
Definition (3)
A public-benefit corporation that participates in the economy on behalf of a government.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about authority.
Accountability Measures
Delegated Authority
Formal Authority
Informal Authority
Management Authority
Negative Selection
Petty Authority
Power Imbalance
Public Authority
Reporting Lines
Words For Authority
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Gerwig, Robert. "Public authorities in the United States." Law and Contemporary Problems 26.4 (1961): 591-618.


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