Professional governance relates to the oversight of a profession and its designated professionals by a governing body. This includes professional self-regulation which is an agreement between an occupational group or profession and the government to regulate the activities of its registrants. Self-regulation is a privilege granted to a profession through legislation to protect the public interest. In this arrangement, government trusts professionals to set aside their self-interest in favour of professional standards set in the public interest, and relies on an ethos of professionalism that includes a commitment to public service. This system is used by government to reduce the risks of incompetent and unethical practice. It allows government some control over the practice of the profession while enabling professionals to use their expertise to set and enforce appropriate requirements.
Professional governance legislation establishes a profession’s governing body with the authority to manage itself within a regulatory framework and set requirements for persons to enter the profession, standards of practice, a pathway for complaints, and investigation and discipline procedures. Government can maintain further oversight with ministerial accountability, government appointees to councils and boards, and agencies of oversight, which in this case is the OSPG.
Professional Regulators and Professional Associations
It is important to acknowledge, as there is sometimes confusion, that ‘professional regulators’ are distinct from ‘professional associations’. Professional regulators, such as regulatory bodies under the Professional Governance Act, have a duty to regulate their professions in the public interest, which may not necessarily reflect the interests of their registered professionals. Registered professionals regulated by a professional regulator have an ethical and legal duty to put the interests of the public ahead of their own. Professional associations are usually voluntary organizations which advocate for a profession and their member’s interests.