Governance of WA government boards and committees

Assisting WA government boards and committees to carry out their responsibilities.

Hundreds of people serve on government boards and committees across Western Australia, sharing their expertise, skills, knowledge and experiences to benefit the state.

While a primary focus is on delivering for the WA Government, boards and committees also ensure the views of interest groups and stakeholders are considered in shaping and delivering vital public services to businesses, communities and individuals.

Serving on a board or committee is both a commitment and a responsibility.

While every board or committee member is responsible for their own actions and decisions, they are also part of a collective responsibility for the way the board or committee operates and the decisions it makes.

[Note: ‘Boards’ is used to refer to boards and committees].

Good governance

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Being part of a government board is an opportunity to make a difference and contribute to the state. Boards provide leadership, direction and purpose – and for governing boards, ensure good governance and effective systems are in place to shape, enable and oversee the management of public sector agencies.

Members of government boards operate in the public sector environment in terms of its frameworks for accountability, governance, management, policy development and service delivery.

Members are responsible for familiarising themselves with the requirements of the role including the specific requirements of their board and its stakeholders.

The laws, government policies, priorities and other obligations that bind a public sector agency are known as its governance framework. Where applicable, boards are responsible for ensuring good governance of a public sector agency so it is essential that board members understand the governance framework for the public sector agency overseen by the board.

The foundations of good governance in the public sector are built on:

  • legislative, legal and government frameworks
  • effective risk management
  • delegations in decision making
  • accountability, transparency, integrity, stewardship, efficiency and leadership
  • values and codes of conduct
  • oversight, monitoring and continual improvement (oversight agencies)

Types of boards

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WA government boards vary in size, scope and purpose. Most are in one – but sometimes more than one – of the following categories:

  • Trading boards are engaged in commercial activities and, in a broad sense, are all government owned. They include the Water Corporation, Gold Corporation, Electricity Networks Corporation (Western Power) and Busselton Water Board.
  • Governing boards govern the operation of their public sector agencies. These include the Insurance Commission of Western Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, and Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority. Governing boards are statutory bodies and, as with most statutory bodies, their particular functions and powers are usually set out in their enabling legislation.
  • Policy, review and specialist boards have a policy or coordination role. The Industry Management Committee and State Emergency Management Committee are examples of these.
  • Regulatory, registration, appeal and quasi-judicial boards are charged with making independent decisions affecting large groups and determining matters of importance with a regulatory or registration role. Examples include the Electrical Licensing Board and Building Services Board.
  • Stewardship boards are entrusted with the stewardship of assets and resources. The Aboriginal Lands Trust and Western Australian Local Government Grants Commission are stewardship boards.
  • Advisory and consultative boards provide independent or expert advice to the government on strategic matters or matters of broad significance. They can be either statutory or non-statutory and include the Regional Development Council and Ministerial Advisory Council on Disability.

7 principles

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There are 7 principles that guide the governance of government boards:

  1. Clear roles and responsibilities: The roles and responsibilities of the board, its members and stakeholders are clearly set out and understood.
  2. Expertise and diversity: Members have a range of skills, knowledge, expertise and experiences, and come from diverse backgrounds.
  3. Strategic focus: Boards operate strategically and monitor progress against strategic outcomes.
  4. Managed risks: Boards identify and manage key risks, keep informed of obligations and responsibilities, and have reporting mechanisms to track governance, strategic and operational risks.
  5. Effective controls: Control systems and procedures support board accountability and compliance with financial, auditing and record keeping requirements.
  6. Ethical decisions: Board decision making is informed, consistent, responsible and ethical – and balances the requirements of multiple stakeholders.
  7. Effective operations: Boards manage their work effectively and within the limits of their statutory responsibilities.

The Governance Manual for Western Australian Government Boards and Committees has detailed information to help boards and their members carry out their responsibilities.

Opportunities to make a difference

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Board members lend their expertise, skills, knowledge and experiences to support public sector decision making. Each board needs different skills and voices to contribute to effective governance.

Boards span numerous portfolios and interest areas from health and community services to Aboriginal affairs and the environment. Some are engaged in commercial activities while others have regulation or registration responsibilities. Still others provide expertise advice to government.

There are opportunities for everyone – all genders, ages, socio-economic backgrounds, professional experiences, and cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In fact diversity on boards adds real value.

The government has a particular policy to increase the representation of women on boards.

OnBoardWA connects you to opportunities on boards and committees so you can contribute your voice to help the community.

Page reviewed 2 December 2021