Rescinded [2009-10-01] - Policy on Delegation of Authorities

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Policy Objective

To ensure that appropriate financial and operational management controls are applied to the decision process in spending public money and that they contribute to the effectiveness of program delivery and to the accountability of the authority process.

Policy Statement

It is government policy to entrust its ministers and deputy heads with the responsibility to delegate financial and operational authority to managers in order to enable them to administer programs under their jurisdiction.


This policy applies to all organizations considered to be departments within the meaning of section 2 of the Financial Administration Act (FAA).

Policy Requirements

  1. Ministers and deputy heads must formally delegate and communicate financial authorities in writing and establish an appropriate division of responsibilities in order to ensure that controls are applied in spending public money. Whether the minister or the deputy head or both must so delegate will depend on the statute requiring the delegation.
  2. Departments must establish policies and procedures that will ensure an adequate level of control over delegated authorities and that persons with delegated authorities are well informed of their responsibilities in this regard.
  3. No person shall be permitted to exercise authorities unless the minister or the deputy minister have formally delegated these authorities and the officer to whom the incumbent of the position reports has formally designated the person.
  4. The process must ensure that the signatures of persons authorized to exercise authorities can be authenticated before or after the processing of the transaction.
  5. Authorities must be delegated to positions identified by title, not to individuals identified by name.
  6. Persons properly designated to exercise authorities shall not delegate these authorities.

Procedural Requirements

  1. Departments must review and update all delegated authorities, including electronic delegation matrixes, specimen signature documents and validation and authentication processes in use in departments and in offices of the Department of Public Works and Government Services at least annually.
  2. Ministers and deputy heads must carry out control measures periodically to prevent the improper use of the authorities they have delegated to their subordinates.
  3. In assigning responsibility to individuals involved in the expenditure process, a deputy head must ensure that the following functions are kept separate:
    • procurement;
    • certification of the receipt of goods and the provision of services;
    • determination of entitlement, verification of accounts, and preparation of requisitions for payment or settlement; and
    • certification of requisitions for payment or settlement pursuant to section 33 of the Financial Administration Act.

    Should the process or other circumstances not allow such separations of duties, alternate control measures must be implemented (e.g. acquisition cards and other governmental credit cards).

  4. Though appointment of a new minister does not automatically nullify existing delegations of authorities, departments must prepare a new document of delegation as quickly as possible for the new minister's approval.
  5. Departments spending authority must be delegated to responsibility centre managers in relation to their budgetary responsibility in order to ensure they have adequate authority and full responsibility for their decisions.
  6. Departments must delegate payment authority to positions classified as "financial officer" who can independently verify how other officers exercise spending authority.
  7. Departments must establish adequate controls to ensure that a specimen signature document is prepared as soon as a new employee is appointed to a position with delegated authorities. This document and delegation documents must be available in all locations where the signatures will have to be recognized and honoured. This document must be cancelled and withdrawn as soon as the incumbent gives up the duties of the position, and withdrawn and replaced when departmental reorganizations or policy changes modify any of the information it contains.

    Note: For computerized signature systems, please refer to the "Electronic Authorization and Authentication policy".


Departments will conduct internal audits of their compliance with this policy. The Treasury Board Secretariat will monitor the effectiveness of this policy by reviewing departmental internal audit reports.



Financial Administration Act (R.S.C., 1985, Chapter F-11), sections 32, 33 and 34;

Treasury Board Publications

Contracting policy, «Contracting» volume of the Treasury Board Manual;

Chapter 2-2, "Electronic Authorization and Authentication" "Comptrollership" volume, Treasury Board Manual.

Other Publications

Receiver General Directive 1993 " Submitting specimen signatures to Government Services Canada".


This chapter cancels chapter 3-1 of the "Financial Management" volume dated March 1, 1994; and

This chapter replaces sections 9.1 related to Delegation of Authorities, 9.2 and Appendices 9A and B of the "Guide on Financial Administration", consolidated revision April 1991.


Enquiries concerning this policy should be directed to your departmental headquarters. Departmental headquarters should contact:

Comptroller Sector
Program Branch
Treasury Board Secretariat
Ottawa, Ontario

Telephone: (613) 957-7233
Facsimile: (613) 952-9613

Appendix A - Guidelines

1. Delegation to positions

Delegation should be to general categories of positions wherever feasible. Depending on operational requirements, departments may delegate financial authority to generic levels of management and to organizational positions shown on a table of equivalent positions.

2. Granting and communicating authorities

Departments are encouraged to use their own financial administration manual to communicate authorities either on paper or electronically. The manual would

  • facilitate the distribution of delegation and their amendments;
  • provide easy reference to authorities delegated to specific positions.

Whenever possible, a delegation document should be in chart form to make it easier to explain and understand the relationship between different delegated authorities.

3. Specimen signature and delegation documents

Delegation documents should be standardized to make it easier to administer the departmental system of authorizations and wherever departmental authorities must be honoured.

When deputy head changes, it is unnecessary to have the delegation documents signed again since the minister is the only person empower by the Financial Administration Act to delegate authorities and authorize an other person to exercise it on his or her behalf.

4. Restrictions

In most cases, delegated authorities to positions may be restricted by geographical location, organizational unit, operational activity, and dollar amounts commensurate with the duties and responsibilities of positions.

Since the minister or deputy head grants authorities to categories of positions that are subject only to general restrictions, it is recommended that additional controls or dollar limits below the maximum amounts be set in certain cases, for example; for small establishments, when employees are only partially trained, for special projects and for limited budgets.

Where there is a requirement for an official certification or attestation such as a travel claim or a delegation of authority document, an original signature, not a facsimile produced by a signing machine, is required, unless a statute or regulation specifically provides for the use of a machine for this purpose (e.g. Receiver General cheques, Government of Canada securities). The use of a facsimile produced by a signing machine should be reserved for routine correspondence and other documents not requiring the exercise of ministerial discretion and authority or requiring certification or attestation.

5. Power to Act for Ministers

For a number of years now, the courts have acknowledged that a minister is not expected to personally exercise all authorities conferred on that minister and that, in certain circumstances, departmental officials may act for their minister in exercising his or her statutory powers. This authority to act for a minister has now been formally codified and is reflected in subsection 24(2) of the Interpretation Act and more specifically in paragraph (d) thereof (see Chapter 6-2). That section emphasizes that in order to act for a minister, a person must:

  • be a public servant employed in the department or organization for which the minister is responsible; and,
  • serve in a capacity within the department such that the person can reasonably be expected to exercise the power of the minister.

The first point limits those persons who may act for a minister. The person must be a public servant; private contractors and ministerial staff would not be included. Also, the public servant must serve in the department over which the minister presides; thereby excluding a minister of state without a ministry.

The second point measures the exercising of a ministerial power against such factors as position and job description, hierarchical relationships, and geographical location in order to assess whether the person could reasonably be expected to exercise that power within the department.


This power to act for a minister under subsection 24(2) applies only on a case-by-case basis and does not authorize a continuing delegation of authority. Such continuing authority can only be given by a formal delegation from the minister where a statute so provides. Likewise this subsection does not apply to any power to designate officials which has been expressly conferred on ministers by statute; for instance the power of a minister to designate authorized signing officers under sections 33 and 34 of the Financial Administration Act. Only the minister him- or herself may delegate this authority.

6. Financial authorities

  1. Delegating spending and payment authority to the same person

    Persons who are delegated authority to make decisions may be delegated either spending or payment authority, but usually not both. However, in small establishments, this distinction is not always possible, especially when an officer is assigned responsibilities as an alternate for another officer or when a financial officer administers a budget. In such circumstances, it may be necessary to delegate both types of authority to a single officer. Whenever this is done, the officer will never exercise both types of authority on the same payment.

  2. Spending authority

    Spending authority consists of four elements: expenditure initiation, commitment control, contracting and confirmation of contract performance and price.

    When the minister delegates spending authority to officers such as purchasing agents to enter into contracts and to personnel officers to hire staff, they exercise the authority on behalf of the responsibility centre managers.

    To make it easier, responsibility centre managers may also designate subordinates other than officers exercising payment authority to exercise limited spending authority on their behalf (e.g. use of acquisition cards and other governmental credit cards).

    1. Expenditure initiation

      The authority to initiate an expenditure is exercised when decisions are made to obtain goods or services that will result in the eventual expenditure of funds, such as the decision to hire staff, to order supplies or services, to authorize travel or relocation or to enter into some other arrangement for program purposes. The objective of this authority is to give operational managers the primary responsibility for initiating expenditures charged to their budgets.

    2. Commitment authority

      Commitment authority should be delegated to managers with spending authority or to officers who have been delegated payment authority or to subordinates the manager has designated, depending on how the department can best meet its obligation to maintain records of undischarged commitments.

      If commitments are recorded centrally, it is normal to assign this responsibility to the organizational units that have also been delegated payment authority under section 33.

      This authority may be delegated to officers who also have the authority to initiate expenditure, to their administrative support staff, and to any other central service according to departmental needs. Even if the officer who has authority to initiate expenditures originates commitment documentation, central staff may record commitments in conformance with section 32 of the FAA if this is more effective and economical.

    3. Contracting authority

      In some major contractual agreements, departments may find it advantageous to delegate contracting authority, as a further subdivision of spending authority, to a purchasing agent. However, such authority must be exercised only when the manager responsible for the budget authorizes it. In other situations, managers who have budgetary responsibility will also have contracting authority.

      The Department of Supply and Services Act gives the Minister of Public Works and Government Services the exclusive authority to procure goods. No other minister may contract for goods unless this minister has received procurement delegation from the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

      The minister of a department has the legal authority to enter into a contract to the limit of the department's approved budget and may delegate that authority to various levels in the department. All departments have been granted standard procurement delegation for local purchases; some departments have received special delegations for specific goods.

      The legal authority to enter into a contract is given in section 7.3 and 41(1) of the Financial Administration Act. Please refer to Treasury Board Contracts Directive in Appendix C of the Contracting volume of the Treasury Board Manual for details on the delegation of contracting authority.

    4. Authority to confirm contract performance and price granted to officers

      When the authority to confirm price and performance is granted to officers, they exercise this authority on behalf of the minister and in support of the manager who has budgetary responsibility unless the officers are managing their own budgets.

  3. Payment authority

    When recommending positions to the minister for the delegation of payment authority, all financial officers in a location, not just to those involved directly in the payment process should be considered.

    To allow the Department of Public Works and Government Services to verify if payment authority has been respected, limits on authority to requisition payments or charges against an appropriation may be expressed as a maximum dollar amount for each position. An exception to this rule is permissible when the incumbent of a single position is granted authority to sign for "pay input" and other payment requisitions. Two different limits may be shown in this case.