The role of a chief executive officer (CEO) in the Victorian public sector is a broad position with multiple dimensions and the accountabilities are substantial and multifaceted. The role is critical to the effective and efficient delivery of government services.

These accountabilities are undertaken in an environment of intense scrutiny. This can include agents such as the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, portfolio-specific regulators and integrity bodies, as well as committees of parliament, the opposition, the media and other stakeholders.

The primary aim of this guide is to provide a reference point for incoming CEOs on their role within the public sector. The guide presents information on and insights into the issues that are unique to being a public sector CEO – including the responsibility of CEOs to their board, as an accountable officer under legislation, and as a senior public official – and aims to facilitate a ‘no surprises’ approach to their transition. As such, the guide could form part of a board chair’s induction process for a new CEO. In addition the guide may be useful for new chairs and board members to better help them understand the role of a CEO.

This guide is written for CEOs of public entities which are governed by a board, which in turn appoints a CEO to manage the operations of the entity. However, the concepts in this guide are equally applicable to the heads of public entities with other governance structures.

In this context, the term ‘CEO’ is used to mean the operational head of a public entity. However, the nomenclature could also be ‘managing director, ‘executive director’ or similar. Similarly, the term ‘board’ is used in this guide, but the information could also apply to entities with governing boards made up of commissioners or trustees.

The guide may also be of interest to a wider audience than new public entity CEOs and their boards. It may be useful for heads of administrative offices, special bodies and departmental units with legislated responsibilities, as well as departmental officers who work with public entities.