Delegation of Authority Policy

Document Number000083
Date Approved7 March 2003
Date Last Amended14 October 2011
  

1.      Introduction

The University of Newcastle is committed to ensuring strong organisational performance through sound corporate governance practices. 

Delegation of authority is recognised as a critical component of the governance framework.  The University of Newcastle Act (NSW) 1989 (the Act) allows the Council to make such delegations that will support the pursuit of the University's objects, functions and strategic priorities as well as the efficient, effective day-to-day management and operation of the University. 

Delegations legally authorise University staff, officers, committees or bodies to exercise powers, incur liabilities and make decisions on behalf of the Council.  Delegations empower these entities within the University to act autonomously; they also represent a significant responsibility for those who hold them as control, accountability, care and diligence must be exercised. 

This policy describes the principles and operation of delegations of authority from the Council in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the University of Newcastle By-law (NSW) 2005 (the By-law) and other relevant external legislation such as:

i. Public Finance and Audit Act (NSW) 1983 ;
ii. Higher Education Support Act (Cth) 2003; and
iii. Interpretations Act (NSW) 1987.

This policy must be read in conjunction with the supporting Delegation Schedules that identify staff, officers, committees and bodies that are authorised to undertake specific activities for the University, as well as the University's Code of Conduct and enterprise agreements.


2.       Policy Scope

2.1  University activities

Approved delegations apply to all University activities across all campuses and locations, including those of all non-incorporated bodies such as centres, associations or institutes. 

This policy does not apply to the controlled entities of the University.  Boards of these entities must ensure the development and approval of delegations of authority that are consistent with their constitutions.

2.2  University delegates

Under Section 17 of the Act, the Council may delegate functions to: any member of Council; any Committee of Council; any authority or officer of the University; or any other person or body prescribed by the by-laws.  In this context, persons who are not employees of the University are not able to exercise delegations of authority unless they have been specifically deemed to be an officer of the University by the Vice-Chancellor in accordance with the Act, By-law and this policy.

2.3 Past acts of delegation

From the date approved by the Council, this policy and the supporting Delegation Schedules will supersede and revoke all previous delegations of authority.  Acts performed under previous delegations of authority are not invalidated by this policy and the supporting Delegation Schedules.

2.4 Matters reserved for the Council

For the purposes of completeness, this policy also includes a Delegation Schedule of Matters Reserved for the Council - that is, those powers and functions for which the Council retains authority.  This Schedule is based on the Council's legislative obligations under the Act and By-law which cannot be delegated as well as specific areas of management that the Council has reserved for approval based on its core responsibilities.  This Schedule may be reviewed from time-to-time by the Council.  


3.      Policy Intent

This policy and the supporting Delegation Schedules aim to document and consolidate the functions which the Council has authorised particular staff, officers, committees and bodies within the University to carry out.  Wherever possible, references to relevant Council rules, resolutions and/or University approved policies have been provided to identify the basis on which the function can be legitimately exercised.

This policy and the supporting Delegation Schedules are designed to reflect the University's commitment to sound corporate governance practices that are underpinned by appropriate internal control mechanisms.  This policy will:

i. support the implementation of objectives and the achievement of goals in the University's Strategic Plan;
ii. provide authority to University staff, officers, committees and bodies in accordance with the University's rules, policies, procedures and guidelines;
iii. ensure delegations of authority are officially recorded and accessible to the University community;
iv. align responsibility and accountability in a way that facilitates efficiency and effectiveness, and also increases the accountability of staff for their performance;
v. reflect the University's commitment to probity and equity in all of its activities; and
vi. place decision-making powers as close as possible to the point of service delivery within the University, thus allowing decisions to be made more efficiently and effectively in response to stakeholder needs.


4.      Relevant Definitions

In the context of this document:

accountability area means the organisational unit or portfolio for which a delegate is responsible operationally and/or financially;

authorised officer means the person appointed by the delegate to perform routine administrative tasks and systems processes required to give effect to the exercise of the delegation;

Council means the governing body, the University of Newcastle Council;

delegate (noun) means the staff member, officer, committee or body of the University to whom or to which a delegation of authority has been made under this policy;

delegate (verb) means to authorise or entrust an officer or committee of the University with decision-making power or authority to decide to take action in a specified area; and

in writing means either the form provided by the University or a paper based, email, fax or other electronic form of delivery which is capable of being converted to hardcopy.


5.      Policy principles


5.1 Authority to delegate

i. The Act provides that the Council is the governing body of the University and authority to engage in functions is vested solely in the Council.

ii. Under Section 17 of the Act, the Council may delegate any activity or function of the University other than the power of delegation.  Delegations are restricted to those functions that the Council itself is enabled to perform under the Act; that is, a delegate cannot exercise a power or authority that the Council itself is not legally permitted to exercise.

iii. In accordance with Section 49 of the Interpretations Act, a delegated function that is duly exercised by the delegate is taken to have been exercised by the Council.

5.2 Matters requiring approval by the Governor, Minister or Treasurer

i. In accordance with the Act and By-law, the Council's authority and power are limited by the need to seek approval from the NSW Governor, Minister or Treasurer for certain matters as specified in the supporting Delegation Schedules.  

5.3 Matters reserved for the Council

i. The Council retains and can exercise all powers and authorities including those that have been delegated to staff, officers, committees and bodies of the University.
 
ii. Where a function is not specifically delegated to a staff member, officer, committee or body (by means of policy, rule or resolution), the Council is the sole body that may exercise that function.

iii. Notwithstanding the provisions of this policy, the Council retains authority for a range of matters as described in the supporting Delegation Schedules.  

5.4 General delegations to the Vice-Chancellor and Chancellor 

i.  The Vice-Chancellor has the power and authority to exercise any delegation made by the Council to a staff member, officer, committee or body, except delegations:

  • made to a member of the Council;
  • made to a Committee of the Council including Academic Senate; and
  • made to the University Secretary with respect to Council business.

ii. In addition to delegations conferred directly on the Chancellor, the Chancellor has the authority to exercise any delegation made by the Council to the Vice-Chancellor but only when the Vice-Chancellor is unable to exercise the delegation in their own right. 

iii. In the event that both the Vice-Chancellor and Chancellor are unable to exercise a delegation in their own right, the matter will be referred to the Executive Committee of Council (ie. the remaining members).  In such instances, the Executive Committee of Council has the authority to exercise any delegation made by the Council to the Vice-Chancellor or Chancellor with actions taken to be reported to the whole Council as soon as practicable.

5.5 Operation of delegations
 
Delegations to position

i. Delegations are made to a position in the organisational structure, not to an individual occupying a position.  Individuals are however, responsible and accountable for decisions that they make in exercising their delegations.

ii. Delegations extend to the officer substantively appointed to that position and any person acting in that position for a specified period unless otherwise excluded in the terms of the temporary appointment. 

iii. Delegations to a position cannot be sub-delegated.  For some delegations, other officers may be authorised by the delegate to undertake certain administrative tasks and systems processes required to give effect to the exercise of the delegation in accordance with clauses 5.5 xxxii. to xxxix. of this policy.  In such instances, this will be clearly stated in the Delegation Schedules.

Delegations to committees or other bodies

iv. Delegations made to a committee or other body can only be exercised when the committee or body is acting as a whole in accordance with their Constitution or Terms of Reference. 

v. Delegations to a committee or body cannot be exercised by an individual member unless so authorised by the committee or body in their Constitution, Terms of Reference or in accordance with this policy and the supporting Delegation Schedules.

Hierarchical delegations

vi. The delegations held by any delegate are also held by their supervisor such that the levels of authority are hierarchical through relevant lines of responsibility (within the accountability area) up to and including the Vice-Chancellor and ultimately the Council.

vii. Except where a delegate is responsible directly to the Council, the delegate's immediate supervisor or any person more senior in the line of responsibility may withdraw or restrict the delegation of authority at any time.

viii. Except where a delegate is responsible directly to the Council, delegates remain subject to the direction and authority of the Vice-Chancellor.

Delegate's responsibilities

ix. Delegates are required to act with care and diligence and not for an improper purpose when exercising their delegation.  Delegates must avoid actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest. 

x. Delegates can only act within the limits of their power and delegation.

xi. Delegates must be aware of and refer to all relevant University rules, policies, procedures and guidelines as well as external legislative requirements when exercising delegations. 

xii. Delegates must maintain records, receipts and any other form of documentation relevant to the exercise of their delegation in accordance with the University's Records Management Policy.

xiii. From time to time, delegates may be required to undertake induction and/or training in relation their delegations.

Limits on delegations

xiv. A delegation may be limited by the provisions of the Act and By-law, provisions of other relevant external legislation, terms and conditions of granting bodies, audit requirements, budget limitations and other University rules, policies, procedures and/or guidelines.

xv. Delegations may be for a continuing period.  Such delegations will be listed in the supporting Delegation Schedules.  Delegations may also be for a specific period in accordance with clause 5.5ii.  These will be made in writing with details of the following to be forwarded to the Manager, Council Secretariat for record-keeping purposes:

  • the origin of the power being delegated; 
  • the title of the staff member, officer, committee or body to whom the delegation being made;
  • the particular nature of the delegation including any conditions or limitations; and 
  • when the delegation expires.

xvi. Delegates can only exercise delegations in regard to matters within their own accountability area and/or line management of responsibility.
 
xvii. Any conditions or limitations placed on delegations will be annotated in the supporting Delegation Schedules.  Such conditions override any contrary statements in other University rules, policies, procedures or guidelines.

Incidental functions

xviii. A delegate may, in the exercise of a delegated function, exercise other functions that are incidental or necessary to complete the delegated function.  This means that a delegate can sign documents or give approval considered necessary to properly exercise the delegation unless otherwise expressly excluded in the Delegation Schedules relating to University contracts and agreements.

Conflict of interest

xix. A delegation cannot be exercised if the delegate has a conflict of interest.  In such circumstances the delegated authority must be exercised by the delegate's immediate supervisor.

xx. Any person providing advice or making a recommendation to a delegate is also required to declare any conflict of interest that may affect their advice or recommendation about exercising the delegation.

xxi. Delegates must understand and act in accordance with the provisions of the University's Conflict of Interest Policy.

Approval of own recommendation

xxii. A delegation cannot be exercised if the delegate is approving their own recommendation, either wholly or in part, with the exception that the Vice-Chancellor can approve the recommendation of a selection panel even if they have been a member and/or chair of the selection panel.

Advice to exercise a delegation

xxiii. A delegate may appoint another staff member, officer, committee or body to provide advice about the exercise of delegated authority including decision-making.  However the delegate always remains responsible and accountable for the decision or action.

xxiv. Some delegations include a specific requirement for the delegate to seek advice before exercising the delegation.  The delegate must be able to provide evidence of this consultation.

Option to not exercise a delegation

xxv. A delegate is not obliged to exercise a delegation.  A delegate should not exercise the delegation if in their opinion there are special or unusual circumstances that would make it more transparent, equitable or ethical for the matter to be considered at a more senior level in the line of responsibility for their accountability area.

Financial expenditure

xxvi. Delegations relating to expenditure of any kind can only be exercised within approved budgets.  There is no authority to incur expenditure unless there is an approved source of funds.  A delegate who incurs expenditure beyond or without an approved source of funds is accountable for that expenditure.

xxvii. Delegations relating to purchasing and expenditure of any kind can only be exercised with respect to cost collectors within the delegate's authority.  A delegate who incurs expenditure against an unauthorised cost collector is accountable for that expenditure.

xxviii. A purchasing or expenditure delegation does not remove the need to obtain tenders or quotations in accordance with the University's policies, procedures and/or guidelines.

xxix. Financial delegations are generally limited to a dollar value which relates to the total cost of the transaction.  A transaction may not be split into parts or instalments or reduced through deductions or trade-ins.

xxx. Any variation from the original approved expenditure must also be approved by the delegate provided that the total cost (including the variation) is within the limits of their delegation.  If the increased total cost exceeds the limit of the delegate's delegation, then the transaction must be approved by a delegate who holds an appropriate level of authority within the accountability area.

xxxi. To ensure operational and administrative efficiency, the Council authorises the Chief Financial Officer to allocate and administer purchasing and expenditure delegations consistent with this policy, the supporting Delegation Schedules and the responsibilities associated with specific positions in the organisation.  Details of approved delegations and limits will be maintained in the University's finance system.

Authorised officers

xxxii. Under this policy, the Council has identified specific delegations for which the delegate can appoint an authorised officer to perform routine administrative tasks and systems processes required to give effect to the exercise of the delegation.  This includes the appointment of an authorised officer to act on behalf of a committee or body. 

xxxiii. Authorised officers may undertake routine tasks only and are not permitted to make any significant, independent decisions as the delegate remains responsible for any decision-making related to the exercise of the delegation. 

xxxiv. The actions of an authorised officer are taken to be the actions of the delegate as though they had personally exercised the delegation.

xxxv. The Delegation Schedules clearly indicate the delegations for which authorisations are permitted.

xxxvi. A delegate cannot appoint an authorised officer to exercise on their behalf any delegation relating to approval of expenditure or the signing of University contracts and agreements.

xxxvii. If the authorised officer is required to provide a signature on behalf of the delegate they must clearly indicate that they are acting under the authority of the delegate.  

xxxviii. A delegate is responsible for maintaining appropriate records of authorised officers and ensuring authorised officers receive adequate training to perform the administrative tasks and systems processes.

xxxix. At any time, the Council, the Vice-Chancellor or the University Secretary may request a delegate to provide a register of authorised officers.

Breach of delegations

xl. A delegation of authority may be withdrawn or restricted at any time without notice by the delegate's immediate supervisor, any person more senior in the line of responsibility for the accountability area, or the Council.

xli. Appointment as an authorised officer may be withdrawn or restricted at anytime by the delegate, any person more senior in the line of responsibility for the accountability area, or the Council.

xlii. Seeking to influence or direct a delegate in relation to the exercise of their delegation is considered a serious breach of this policy as is a delegate's failure to show due care and diligence when exercising their delegation.

xliii. Breaches of the provisions of this policy and the Delegation Schedules may be regarded as misconduct / serious misconduct and subject to disciplinary action.  The University may also be obligated to report serious matters to external agencies such as the police or the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for further action.


6.      Delegations of authority framework

Delegation schedules

Delegations of authority are presented in Delegation Schedules that detail the specific delegations across particular areas of organisational activity as follows:

  • Matters Reserved for the Council
  • Financial Management
  • Procurement, Purchasing and Expenditure
  • Human Resources
  • Governance and Organisation
  • Legal
  • Academic Governance and Management
  • Campus Facilities and Services 
  • External Relations.


7.      Reporting and audit obligations

i. As indicated in the Delegation Schedules, some delegations of authority have specific reporting requirements attached to them such that the Vice-Chancellor and/or the Council must be promptly notified when they are exercised.  It is the delegate's responsibility to ensure this reporting occurs.

ii. As part of the University's compliance program, delegates may be asked at any time to provide an assurance that they have exercised their delegations appropriately and/or that all expenditure has been properly directed towards the promotion of the University's objects and strategic goals. 

iii. The exercise of delegations and authorisations will be periodically reviewed by the University's internal and/or external auditors.

iv. Where there is concern that a delegation of authority has been improperly exercised, the matter should be referred to the Vice-Chancellor with relevant details for further investigation.  In the event of a conflict of interest, the Vice-Chancellor may refer the matter to an appropriate senior officer.

v. The Vice-Chancellor must report to the Council any breaches of delegations including any disciplinary action or reporting to external agencies.


8.      Maintenance and review of delegations

Approval of delegations and authorisations

i. A delegation can only be exercised by staff, officers, committees or bodies identified in the Delegation Schedules. 

ii. The Council is responsible for approving all new or varied delegations, including those that arise from the development or amendment of University rules, policies, procedures and guidelines (irrespective of where the authority for approval of such documents rests).

iii. Requests for approval of new or varied delegations should be made in writing to the University Secretary in the first instance.  Such requests will be progressed to the Council on the recommendation of the Vice-Chancellor.

iv. In accordance with clause 5.5 xxxi, requests for allocation of a purchasing or expenditure delegation to should be made in writing to the Chief Financial Officer with support from the staff member's supervisor.

v. Requests for appointment as an authorised officer should be discussed with and approved by the relevant delegate.

Amendments to delegations

vi. In the event of a change to the responsibilities attached to a position, committee or body, the delegation will be attached to the principal successor to the functions of the position, committee or body.  In such circumstances, the University Secretary is authorised to update and maintain this policy, the Delegation Schedules and other relevant rules/policies/procedures and will notify delegates and the Council as appropriate.

vii. The University Secretary is permitted to make minor amendments to this policy and the Delegation Schedules in circumstances where it is necessary to capture Council resolutions or delegations from other sources or to ensure consistency with new or amended rules, policies and procedures.  The proposed amendments will be forwarded to the Vice-Chancellor for approval who will then advise the Council. 

Review of delegations

viii. The exercise of delegations is to be reviewed regularly by supervisors as part of the Performance Development Framework to ensure that they remain consistent with the responsibilities of the position.

ix. This policy and the supporting Delegation Schedules will be presented to the Council at least every two years for review to ensure delegations remain current and relevant to the operations and structure of the University.

Questions about delegations

x. General questions about this policy and the Delegation Schedules should be directed to the Manager, Council Secretariat.


9.      Acknowledgement

This policy has been prepared with reference to the Delegations of Authority Policy from Charles Sturt University (as at July 2010).


10.      Essential Supporting Documents  

University of Newcastle Act (NSW) 1989
University of Newcastle By-law (NSW) 2005
University Enterprise Agreements
Code of Conduct
Conflicts of Interest Policy 000934
Delegation Schedules


11.      Related Documents

Refer to University Policy Library

12.     Schedule 1 - Delegations by Function

Approval AuthorityUniversity Council
Date Approved7 March 2003
Date Last Amended14 October 2011
Date for Review14 October 2014
Policy SponsorUniversity Council
Policy OwnerUniversity Secretary
Policy ContactCouncil Officer
Amendment History

Minor amendments: addition of section 12 to provide link to Delegations schedule page, Governance and Policy Secretariat 27 January 2012

Substantial amendments approved by Council 14 October 2011

Amended: 9 December 2002, 7 March 2003

Noted by Council, 21 June 2002

Approved by Vice Chancellor, 18 April 2002