Quote of the week
“This is a bold move, which will highlight the Permanent Secretaries who are effectively serving the government and the public while holding the feet of all to the fire.”
— Frances Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office
In the U.K. system, Permanent Secretaries are what we call Deputy Ministers. As part of that government’s Civil Service Reform Plan, Permanent Secretaries will have their objectives published online. That is not the case in Canada.
The government will also publish the “operational and commercial” experience of each Permanent Secretary. This is setting the stage for making sure that all heads of “main delivery” departments have at least two years experience in these areas.
The government believes that too many of their Permanent Secretaries come from the policy area, and want to correct what it sees as a serious imbalance: only a quarter have commercial experience. The government’s goal appears to be to make sure that senior officials have experience running government more like a business.
All this can be seen as the government moving toward reform of the civil service along the often-stated lines of increased efficiency and private sector know-how.
This could also be seen as the government moving to exert more control of the senior ranks of the public service by ensuring that those in Permanent Secretary positions have the “right stuff.” It is well known that a so-called “guerilla war” exists between the government and senior mandarins, the former believing at best that officials are too bureaucratic and slow and at worst that they are undermining its policy agenda.