6 Good Governance
Relevant council information
Because council members are generally distanced from the TEI’s day-to-day activities, they rely on the information provided to them to build their knowledge and understanding of the TEI, its issues and its performance. Interpreting and monitoring that information is at the heart of good governance.
Good quality, well-presented information also allows council members to focus their energies on constructive and substantive discussion; while poor quality information or sub-standard presentation can divert attention from core governance responsibilities as members work to clarify content and the meaning of the information they have been given.
Council members have a responsibility to ensure that the information they receive is clear and comprehensive, of sufficient quality and in a format that meets their needs. They also have an obligation to keep asking questions until they can properly understand and evaluate the answers they receive.
A good-practice information package
A good-practice information package presented for the council typically contains information that answers the question: What information do we need at council meetings to effectively carry out our governance role?
The content, format and timing of the information package must be customised for the TEI, but should be agreed in a planning session involving the council and senior management, followed by periodic structured reviews of the information package.
In planning the information package, council members and management need to agree on:
- the types of information the council requires
- the specific content of that information and the format in which it will be presented by management
- the desired timing and frequency for receiving each item or type of information.
Reviewing the information the council needs for carrying out its roles and responsibilities should result in:
- more efficient and effective council meetings as the council focuses on the information it needs and minimises the need to carry issues over from one meeting to another
- more efficient and effective use of management time as staff focus on supplying the information the council needs and do not spend time preparing information the council does not value.
Components of the information package
A quality information package helps council members to fulfil their governance role in three important areas of performance:
- decision-making impacting on the future of the TEI
- understanding the context in which the TEI operates
- monitoring the TEI performance.
The list below illustrates the typical main components of an information package for council meetings:
- report from the Chief Executive
- performance reporting (i.e., against the strategic plan and the Investment Plan, including key performance indicators)
- financial performance reporting against budget with an explanation of variances
- council committee reports
- projects and initiatives
- report on developments in the external environment.
Assessing the information package
Ways in which council members can assess the robustness and appropriateness of information is by asking:
- Does it incorporate the full range of information that the council needs to carry out its roles?
- Is an appropriate balance of information provided across all the council roles?
- Does it reflect the content and format agreed between the council and management for the information package?
- Does the content and format specifically match the council’s information needs with regard to monitoring progress on the contents of the TEI’s strategic plan, Investment Plan, business plans, key performance indicators and budgets?
- Is the information pitched at an appropriate level to meet governance needs? Is it neither too detailed nor too operationally oriented, or so high-level and summarised that there is insufficient information for council members to get to grips with the issues?
- Is the content, style and format in which the information is presented helpful to enable robust council discussion and debate, or does the council waste time trying to understand the information because of presentational weaknesses?
- Does the frequency and timing of the information provided in each area of reporting align with the council’s annual timeline and work programme?