The Changing Nature of Public Sector Governance: A quantitative review of distributed governance in Canada

2 minute read

By Samuel Wells with Karl Salgo

Key Concepts

  • Distributed governance – the devolution of public sector responsibilities to organizations with day-to-day independence from core government – is a predominant characteristic of contemporary public administration.
  • Distributed governance expenditures are a key indicator of the scope of distributed governance activity and account for the greatest portion of public sector spending in Canada.
  • Evidence suggests that distributed governance mechanisms are most commonly used for service delivery functions, and that increasing use is being made of partnerships with non-government entities.
  • Distributed governance raises distinctive issues for the public sector, notably with respect to the management of key risks – financial, operational, and reputational, as well as the risk of misalignment with overall government policy.
  • The devolution of responsibilities and authorities from core government appears to be a permanent feature of public sector governance.

About the author

Karl Salgo

Karl Salgo

Executive Director - Public Governance

As Executive Director of Public Governance, Karl provides advisory services to multiple levels of government (provincial, federal and international) on all aspects of public sector governance, including institutional capacity, the center of government, organizational design and effectiveness, accountability, oversight, and risk management. He also plays a lead role in the IOG's research initiatives, including the work of the Public Governance Exchange, a syndicated, multi-jurisdictional forum for developing and exchanging ideas on public sector governance. Additionally, Karl provides educational services to public servants and appointees on a broad range of subjects, ranging from policy development and MC preparation to political savvy and the operations of government, to the responsibilities of directors in a wide range of public institutions.

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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