Delegations and authorised officers explained

How well a council deals with its delegations is fundamental to its efficiency to maximise opportunities and minimise risk. From a practical management perspective it is necessary in every council to devolve decision-making from the central source of authority downwards. This enables decisions to be made at the coal-face, by employees or committees with the required specialised knowledge, and in a timely way. However, decisions made without proper authority can put councils at financial and legal risk.

What is a Delegation?

Delegations empower employees and committees with the authority to make binding decisions on behalf of their council. Delegations are a function of administration expressed, in ordinary terms, as ‘who can do what’. In the context of local government, delegation is the giving of decision-making power by Council and/or the CEO to members of Council staff. The reason for delegations being:

  • It is not practical for Council and the CEO alone to exercise the many statutory powers given to Council.
  • Delegation facilitates the achievement of good governance by empowering appropriate members of staff to make decisions on behalf of the Council and the CEO.

How is authority delegated?

Many councils have delegation frameworks at varying levels of sophistication that consolidate and list delegations, enabling employees and the outside world to identify decision-makers and the extent of authority. Councils often subscribe to a law firm to provide advice regarding legislative requirements and the provision of template instruments in relation to powers of delegation, which are then tailored to organisational requirements.

Legislation which confers an express power of delegation often requires that power to be exercised in writing, that is, by making a written instrument. An instrument of delegation most commonly specifies classes of position-holders to whom powers are delegated, removing the need to make a separate instrument for each and every person to whom those powers are delegated. Sometimes delegations are also made to named individuals or the holders of named positions.

What is an Authorised Officer?

An authorised officer is a person, other than a Councillor, appointed by council to carry out a compliance function or an enforcement function under legislation related to the functions and powers of the Council.

Delegates are different in nature from authorised officers. The decision of a delegate of Council is "deemed" to be a decision by Council.The decision by a person appointed by Council to a statutory position - for example, an authorised officer - is not. Even though authorised officers are exercising statutory powers, they are doing so by virtue of and in accordance with their statutory position, rather than under a delegation. That person's powers and responsibilities are quite distinct from Council's.

Provisions relating to authorised officers are saved and continue to operate under the 1989 Act. Equivalent provisions relating to authorised officers have not carried over to the 2020 Act. This will be the subject of a separate project in the future.

New requirements for delegations

The following lists the Parts of the Act relating to delegation and provides the new requirements under the Local Government Act 2020.

Part 2 Councils

Division 1: Role and powers of a Council, Section 11 – Power of delegations

(1) A Council may by instrument of delegation delegate to—

(a) the members of a delegated committee; or

(b) the Chief Executive Officer—

any power, duty or function of a Council under this Act or any other Act other than a power, duty or function specified in subsection (2).

(3) A Council may delegate to the Chief Executive Officer the power to appoint an Acting Chief Executive Officer for a period not exceeding 28 days.

Transitional Arrangements:

Part 2 Councils

Division 7 : Chief Executive Officer and members of Council staff, Section 47 – Delegations by Chief Executive Officer

(1) The Chief Executive Officer may by instrument of delegation delegate any power, duty or function of the Council that has been delegated to the Chief Executive Officer by the Council to—

  • a member of Council staff; or
  • the members of a Community Asset Committee.

(4) A delegation under this section to the members of a Community Asset Committee is to be exercised subject to the terms and conditions specified by the Chief Executive Officer, which must include the following—

  • the specified limit on any financial delegation and the specified purpose for which the financial delegation may be used;
  • compliance with specified governance requirements to ensure appropriate standards of probity are met;
  • specified monitoring and reporting of the activities and performance of the Community Asset Committee.

6. A Chief Executive Officer must submit an annual report to the Council in relation to the activities and performance of a Community Asset Committee in respect of which the members have been given a delegation under this section.

Transitional Arrangements:

Part 9 General Provisions

Section 317 Power of delegation (minimal changes to the Act)

(1) The Minister may by instrument of delegation delegate to an officer or employee of the Department any power, duty or function of the Minister other than this power of delegation.

(2) The Secretary may by instrument of delegation delegate to an officer or employee of the Department any power, duty or function of the Secretary other than this power of delegation.

Transitional Arrangements:

Council readiness

How well do you feel you or your Council is placed to meet the expectations of the requirements for changes to Delegations? 5 = very ready, 1 = nothing in place

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Annette Waters

Legislation Support

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