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The Purpose of Small Statutory Agencies: Insights on their Functions, Form, and Practices

1 April 2023



This original ANZSOG research examines the complex authorising environment of small statutory agencies and demonstrates the importance of them interpreting their formal independence and their practical reliance on larger government departments. It provides practical guidance about the establishment, governance, and operations of this increasingly important part of the machinery of government, and the realities involved in effectively balancing functional relationships.

Statutory agencies are established with a particular purpose in mind. They address a specific set of interests or public need, usually with targeted powers to compel, enable, restrict, seek compensation, or advocate. They can be narrowly defined and specialised and therefore are often small, relative to government departments at least. They are established independent of a department and certain ministerial control, and instead self-governed by boards or other separate mechanisms. Nevertheless, they are accountable to the government and a minister as well as to the public they might regulate or represent.

A key question is if statutory authority necessarily includes independence, how does this manifest where small agencies have functional and operational dependences and relationships with various government services and systems and stakeholders?

Research supporting the governance and administration of small statutory agencies is very limited. This report is based largely on a set of interviews with leaders from ten small statutory agencies across three jurisdictions.

It was produced as part of a larger project, commissioned by ANZSOG in partnership with the Public Sector Commission of Queensland and the Public Sector Commission of Western Australia, investigating the governance and operations of small statutory agencies.

Please note that this version replaces an earlier version that was formatted incorrectly. No substantive revisions to the text have been made.

Published Date: 1 April 2023


The Purpose of Small Statutory Agencies: Insights on their Functions, Form, and Practices