Q&As

Decision Making: Authorisations and Delegations of Powers

Monday July 10, 2017

Tim Houweling, Director of Cornerstone Legal and Adjunct Professor

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 at Law, has advised Councillors on matters relevant to Local Government and appeared in the Canning Inquiry into Local Government for a Councillor.

You can hear more from Tim at Duty, Bias and Delegations in Decision Making seminar, being held on Wednesday 6 September at Perth's Parmelia Hilton.

He joined Sintija Dobrotinsek of Legalwise Seminars to discuss issues about decision making for government agencies.

You can find the full Q&A below.

What are some of the key trends and developments in decision making for government agencies and local councils right now?

Accountability, accountability, accountability!  The pace of business is frantic.  Government agencies are also being pressed to make decisions quickly, at the same time the perceived or real need for broad consultation and inviting submissions has increased.  Public consultation is expected and with the internet and social media made easier.  For that reason juggling competing demands in decision making, while acting within the confines of power is becoming increasingly difficult. Decision makers are being asked to be accountable like never before, whether decisions are criticised on social media, or questions asked publically about the powers and process by which a decision is made.  It seems that there is a ready body of persons who scrutinise every decision and seem to consider that decision making is democratic.  Ultimately, the decision maker must ensure that they make lawful decisions according to process and policy.  However, that does not mean that the answer to any decision is NO!

What’s one thing that decision makers should consider when making statutory decisions?

Proper process and policy decision making according to lawful requirements has made proper decision making hard.  But one thing all decision makers must consider is whether they have been appropriately delegated; individuals should not be delegated, it is the position a person holds that is relevant to the delegation!

What are some of the innovations and disruptions in decision making that officers need to keep their eye on?

The ease of public participation through social media and the internet enables a broad range of perspectives to be considered when making decisions.  It is imperative, however, that decisions are made for the right purpose taking into account relevant considerations.  Decision making is not democracy.  Decisions are made by officers appointed.  Persons are democratically elected to Council to govern, not manage.  In decision making the desire for transparency and accountability should not be confused with democracy.  Lawful and proper considerations does not mean everyone has a say on every decision.  Decisions must be made according to relevant processes applying relevant laws and policies.     

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