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How To Answer Demonstrates Sound Governance Selection Criteria

Continuing the series of “What is the sub text of this selection criterion” today I turn to Demonstrates Sound Governance, hearing a collective groan from all the readers.

Sound governance, also asked as demonstrates sound governance, and, demonstrates sound governance examples.

Previous blogs in this series include:

Ah yes, governance. The most boring, and second most difficult criterion to answer after WH&S, EEO and diversity – which I will cover in future blogs.

Boring? Yes.

Necessary evil in government? Absolutely.

Neon sign everything is going to be alright


What does governance mean?

According to the Governance Institute of Australia it means:

“Governance encompasses the system by which an organisation is controlled and operates, and the mechanisms by which it, and its people, are held to account. Ethics, risk management, compliance and administration are all elements of governance”.

Not only is that the #1 Google result, but it is also a comprehensive answer.

Why is governance important in government? Many reasons!!

  • First and foremost and underpinning everything else is that government delivers policies and services to people using their own money. It is public money, so the public have a right to expect accountability – which derives from good governance.
  • Second for large and complex projects it helps things stay on track with effective and efficient decision making, establishing lines of accountability and authority, escalation, and resolution of issues, and ensuring senior leaders can have oversight and guide projects.
  • Some authors say governance:
    • “…provides the foundation for a high-performing organisation[s]“, and,
    • “…ensures the organisation is well placed to respond to a changing external environment

I would argue that it can do both, but it can also be an impediment if the focus becomes governance not delivery. 

Balance between governance and delivery needs to exist otherwise.


Sound Governance Selection Criteria

The likely ways a governance selection criterion is going to be asked include:

  • Demonstrates sound governance
  • Maintains a high standard of practice through governance and risk management
  • Knowledge of and experience applying risk management principles
    • Possibly also asked referring specific documents such as:
      • Public, Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act)
      • Commonwealth Risk Management Policy (CRMP)
      • ISO Standards (International Organization for Standardization)
    • Project management skills including managing risk and issues registers

Regardless of what words are used to ask the criterion, it is driving at the same thing – explain to the panel that you have experience managing and mitigating the possibility that things are going to go wrong.

For comprehensive support in addressing this and all the most common selection requirements for government and public sector roles, check out my short online course ‘How To Write Selection Criteria’.


Who is this going to apply to?

This criterion would be less likely to apply at lower organisational levels. Operational, counter, call centre type staff are much less likely to need to demonstrate governance. That is not to say they have no responsibilities. Quite the contrary. They are likely to be giving advice to the public, handling money etc. Rather than being framed as governance responsibilities theirs are more likely require adherence to policy and procedure.

In the Commonwealth Government ILS, governance responsibilities start to appear at the APS4 level.

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What Examples Should You Use For ‘Demonstrates Sound Governance’?

This might end up a bit wordy as I am going to try to layer up to showing how to create governance but bear with me, and, as always in anything I teach or advise on, I recommend knowing your career examples and being able to apply them to any criterion or interview question – a framework I teach in my Your Career Examples course.


How do you demonstrate you can apply governance?  Applying governance is more than just saying you can follow rules. Sorry for those that thought following rules would do – but read on.

Referring to the definition “Governance encompasses the system…Ethics, risk management, compliance and administration are all elements of governance…”.

To answer you need to think of systems, mechanisms, culture, ways of doing things and ideas – that created accountability and/or stopped things going wrong and/or made sure people did the things they needed to do the way they needed to do them.

Are you expected to Build or Use those things?

Coming into government outside of a project or program, most if not all governance systems should be in place, and you would not be expected to build the things you need. Finance and procurement systems and processes will be heavily governed and have numerous accountability mechanisms.

As a project or program manager, you could be expected to draw on your experience to implement governance mechanisms (such as risk registers and mitigations, issues register etc) specific to the project or program.  That is after all one of the jobs of a project or program manager and they build those within the frameworks set out by the organisation.

Back to How…Expectations of your Answer

Going back to answering the question.  If you are a team lead or manager, the expectation is you demonstrated governance utilising mechanisms in place. Your examples should include work you have done where you have:

    • Supported people to operate within legislative and policy frameworks
    • Promoted integrity in managing and using processes and resources
    • Ensured people have information and training to successfully implement integrity
    • Analysed data and trends to identify risks
    • Empowering others to incorporate risk management in planning
    • Evaluating options and developing plans to mitigate and report on risks

As a project or program lead, using the mechanisms in place you implemented controls for the work you were leading. Your examples should include work you have done where you have:

    • Ensured legislative and organisational frameworks/systems/processes/policies are applied effectively
    • Acting in the interests of the community using cost-effective goods and service procurement
    • Role modelled impartiality
    • Appropriate and transparent supplier relationships
    • Working with partners to analyse trends and forecast risks to project or program outcomes
    • Facilitate and collaborate to develop contingency plans to respond to identified risks and measure the success of any response

Never forget the measurement aspect, there is no use implementing controls if you don’t measure the outcomes!


Need More Help…?

Hopefully that gives you some guidance on the sorts of examples you can identify from your work experience where you have done those things.

The long story short is it is not just risk management or adherence to policy or transparency and accountability in your behaviour and dealings or being seen to do the right thing…it is all those things.

If you’re new to the process of applying for roles in the public sector or you’re regularly applying with no success, we share the best tips and tricks for what and how to write selection criteria responses, from the perspective of a public sector recruiter in our online training courses.

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