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The Role of Management Boards in the Public Sector – Discussion Paper

In the public sector, terminology is not always a reliable indicator of function, and the term “board” can refer to a range of very different entities. This is true even within a single jurisdiction. For example, the Government of Canada includes a number of organizations whose title includes the term “board” in a sense different from that used in this paper – referring variously to administrative tribunals (the Immigration and Refugee Board), organizations with a regulatory mandate (the National Energy Board), investigative and advisory bodies (the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Board), operational agencies (the National Film Board) and organizations mandated to manage public monies (the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which in turn has a board of directors). Neither is the term a guide to organizational form – a “board” may be anything from a ministerial department to a statutory agency, a departmental corporation or a Crown corporation. The situation is comparable at the provincial level.

This paper is concerned with boards of directors mandated to oversee the management of public sector organizations. In the private sector, such boards are a characteristic feature of corporate governance. This is also true in the Government of Canada, where management boards are part of the governance framework of Crown corporations and a number of so-called departmental corporations, though not elsewhere. In the Government of Ontario, by contrast, management boards are used in a broader swath of organizations.

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About the Authors

  • Karl Salgo

    Karl Salgo

    Executive Director - Public Governance

    Karl heads the Public Governance Exchange(PGEx), the IOG’s multi-jurisdictional program of applied research and knowledge exchange on public sector governance.

    A career public servant, Karl has degrees in political science, history and law from the University of Toronto and in public administration from the Queen’s University School of Policy Studies.  He worked for many years in the federal Department of Finance, in areas as diverse as tax policy, communications and financial markets.  In the latter capacity, Karl helped to establish the governance framework for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and later served as Chief of Capital Markets Policy.

    From 2004 to 2012, Karl worked in the Privy Council Office’s Machinery of Government Secretariat, where he provided advice to the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Prime Minister on the organization and structure of the Government of Canada – the Cabinet, portfolios, and the creation, winding-up and governance of individual organizations.

    As Director of Strategic Policy from 2007 to 2012, Karl was the secretariat’s lead authority on Crown corporation governance, the conventions of the Westminster system, and the conduct standards applicable to ministers and other senior public office holders.  Karl was the author/editor of numerous PCO publications, including Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State and Guidance for Deputy Ministers.  Actively involved in realizing the myriad governance and accountability changes that flowed from the Federal Accountability Act, Karl played a lead role in the design and implementation of the accounting officer mechanism of deputy minister accountability.

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