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Ministry of Public Service

A Brief History

Personnel Administration Prior to the Establishment of the Ministry of Public Service

Before 1953 the Public Service of the British Guiana was administered under the traditional colonial system. Constitutional responsibility for all staff matters was assigned to the Chief Secretary and discharged through the Establishment Department.

When the Ministerial system was recommended by the Constitution Commission of 1950-51, it was suggested that an independent Public Service Commission be set up to guarantee the political neutrality of the Public Service. The Government accepted the recommendation and established the Commission in 1953. The Governor still had absolute discretion in matters of appointment, promotion, transfer, training and discipline.

In 1960 at a conference in London it was decided that the Public Service Commission would become an executive body. (It did not actually become an executive body until 26 May 1966). The Personnel Section of the Establishment Department was converted to the Secretariat of the Commission, and the Commission replaced the Chief Secretary on December 1, 1960 as Personal Adviser to the Governor. At the same time the Governor assigned responsibility for the Establishment Section to the Financial Secretary.

The Establishment Section was later known as the Establishment Division of the Ministry of Finance. Along with the Public Service Commission, the Establishment Division of the Ministry of Finance was the other main agency for central control of personnel administration. The function of the Establishment Division covered the following:

Establishments, complements, grading, salaries, wages, allowances, conditions of service (including leave, passages, invalidating procedure), Whitley Councils and other staff negotiations, wages committees, uniform, rent, examinations, advances and allowances, administration of estates of deceased officers, resignations, widows’ and orphans’ pensions, staff proposals in annual and supplementary estimates, organisation and methods, general orders, staff lists, petitions regarding the above matters.

It was the Burgess and Hunn report of 1966 that recommended the severance of the Establishment Division from the Ministry of Finance, so that the management of personnel could be expanded to a full Ministry, with a Permanent Secretary of its own.

That proposed new ministry was the Public Service Ministry which would comprise the following four divisions:

  • Personnel Division
  • Training Division
  • Management Services Division
  • Division of Common Services

It was felt that Public Service Ministry must have the reality as well as the appearance of authority or it would fail in its object. It must have the power, indeed the duty, to enter every other department of its own volition and not merely by invitation. By direct and continuous contact it must keep itself informed of the nature, quality and quantity of both the work and the staff throughout the Public Service and take positive action on its own initiative as and when it thought fit. It must indisputably have this overall authority and use it, with due discretion, to improve the organisation of work, modernise the facilities, simplify procedures, raise standards, amalgamate or abolish post as well as establish new ones, revise grading, devise incentives, organise training of all trainable groups or individuals, strengthen the merit system of promotion and do all it can to instill pride, discipline and a sense of responsibility in each and every public servant. It must try to effect reforms by consultation and persuasion.

It was therefore suggested that Public Service Ministry be responsible for:

  • Reviewing and advising Government on the Machinery of Government, including such matters as allocation of functions, creation, amalgamation or abolition of departments, coordination of activities of departments, extent and nature of one department over others;
  • Reviewing the efficiency and economy of each department, including Permanent Secretary’s responsibilities;
  • Provision of suitable office accommodation, including prescription and supervision of physical working conditions;
  • Approving and reviewing establishments of staff and grading of posts;
  • Acting as the central personnel authority for the Public Service in all matters except the Constitutional functions of the Public Service Commission;
  • Prescribing basic training programmes, including furnishing advice on and assisting with training, making recommendations to the Minister on facilities;
  • Providing management consultations services, including advice as to efficient work and control methods, techniques, data processing equipment, and problems of organisation; 
  • Conduct inspections and investigations and be entitled to such reports, as it considers necessary to advise the Permanent Secretary or report to the Minister.

Extracted from the

‘Report on Public Administration in Guyana’ by G. Burgess and K. Hunn