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 instil 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

The Establishment and Expectations of the Ministry of Public Service

On 7 July 1967, Mr. E. D. Ford, the first Permanent Secretary of Public Service Ministry wrote the Permanent Secretaries, Solicitor General and Heads of Departments not under ministerial control, by way of circular. Excerpts of the circular relevant to this topic are as follows:

  • As of 30 June, the Personnel Division and the Management Services Division of the Public Service Ministry (formerly the Establishment Division and the Organisation and Methods Division of the Ministry of Finance) are operating at lot 164 Waterloo Street, North Cummingsburg. These divisions together with the Training Division (formerly of the Ministry of Education and still at 65/67 High Street, Kingston) constitute the new Public Service Ministry established with effect from 6 June, 1967, by the transfer by the Governor General of the relevant responsibilities from the Ministers of Finance and of Education to the Prime Minister.
  • You will be aware that the establishment of the new ministry follows a recommendation by two United Nations Senior Advisers (Messrs. Burgess and Hunn) whose report on Public Administration in Guyana was published last November.
  • A cardinal principle of the reorganisation of the personnel function of the Government effected by the establishment of the Public Service Ministry is that the Constitutional functions of the Public Service Commission (Chapter VIII, article 96 etseq. of the Constitution of Guyana) remain functions of the Commission to be discharged by it in its independent executive capacity. The Ministry is only concerned with such aspects of Public Service Personnel Administration as are outside the responsibilities of the Public Service Commission. The Ministry will, of course, operate in close cooperation with the Commission.
  • In discharge of its own functions, which relate primarily to the policy aspects of Public Service Personnel Administration the Ministry will work in close collaboration with Personnel Branches of Ministries with a view to securing the uniform application of the relevant rules, regulations etc., relating to personnel matters and of such new instructions, rules and other forms of legislation as maybe promulgated from time to time.  

Extracted from Public Service Ministry’s Circular No. 1/1967, E.2/92 of 7July 1967

On 20 October 1967, there was a meeting of the Permanent Secretaries to discuss issues relating to the Public Service. One of the questions that was considered was:

‘”What do you expect of the Public Service Ministry?”

At that meeting the then Prime Minister of Guyana, Mr. Forbes Burnham addressed the Permanent Secretaries and the following are some relevant excerpts of his speech:

  • “The Public Service Ministry, apart from being responsible in the ultimate for personnel matters, is expected, when representations are made, to adopt a much freer attitude and approach. I am not saying that every application you make for a revision here of a little anomaly, or a revision there of another anomaly, or every claim you make based on your imagined valuation of your own self, your services and your career, will get a ready and favourable answer from the Public Service Ministry. But at least every representation will be considered sympathetically and with some understanding.”
  • “And the Public Service Ministry further is supposed to give advice, to be a sort of brother to the other Ministries on various problems affecting the Service, its administration and its personnel which may come up from time to time. As I see it, the Public Service Ministry, therefore, will be to a large extent a purveyor to the entire Service and a coordinator of the various Ministries in so far as officers and administration are concerned.”
  • “So I have just given you some idea of what strikes me as the tasks and duties of the Public Service Ministry. They are tremendous, and I am hopeful that the Public Service Ministry, apart from acting as a coordinator and purveyor, will at the same time earn the active and understanding cooperation of all the Ministries. And that is why I am speaking to the Permanent Secretaries today.”
  • “In each Ministry the Permanent Secretary is responsible for the administration, without any question whatsoever. But in so far as the general service is concerned the final person to whom the Government will turn for advice is the Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Ministry. He is the Head of the Civil Service.”

  Extracted from the speech made by the
Honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Forbes Burnham
at the meeting of Permanent Secretaries on 20 October 1967.

The Renaming of the Public Service Ministry to the Public Service Management

Public Service Ministry was one of the ministries affected by the restructuring and rationalisation review of the Public Service, which occurred during the period, January to June 1991. This was part of the Public Service Reform Programme.

As a result of the review, 18 Ministries were contracted to 11 ministries.

Public Service Ministry was merged into the Office of the President to create an integrated new entity with clearly defined aims and objectives, a rational structure, appropriate staffing establishment, able to operate efficiently and effectively.

Another significant aim as a consequence of the review was to strengthen the public service management function, by locating it in the senior ministry, Office of the President.

Public Service Management became one of the four distinct areas of responsibility of the Head of the Presidential Secretariat (HPS). He was considered the head of the Public Service.

The key structural recommendations were:

  • Strengthen the personnel management function by delegating day-to-day administration of personnel matters to individual ministries, and concentrate central efforts on policy formation, conditions of service and their consistent implementation across the service;  
  • Divide the Training Division into two separately managed units, with a greatly strengthened training and development function and a leaner and more effective scholarships administration function;  

Develop the Management Services Division as an internal consultancy service by recruitment and intensified training of staff, and by shedding the staff inspection role

A comparison of divisions prior to and after the restructuring is as follows:


Divisions Before Divisions After
Personnel Personnel
Management Services Management Services
Training Training and development
Administrative Support
Scholarships Administration


(The last two formerly known as the Division Of Common Services)


The Administrative Support Services Division does not appear under DIVISIONS AFTER because those services were centralised under the supervision of the Deputy Head of the Presidential Secretariat. It was thought that that move would free the Permanent Secretary from much routine administrative work and allow him/her to concentrate more on work related to the development of the Public Service.

Extracted from the

Government of Guyana Public Service Reform Programme

Office of the President Implementation Report, Volume 1

KPMG Managing Consulting was the consulting firm assigned to this project.

The Training Division of the Ministry of Public Service

A Change in Ministry for the Training Division

In October of 1984 the responsibility for the Training Division was shifted from Public Service Ministry to the Ministry of Education. And in 1986 the position was reversed, with the Training Division again falling under the Public Service Ministry.

The movement of the Training Division to the Ministry of Education in 1984 was prompted by the thought that ‘training’ was education and logically it should be so placed. While on the other hand the reason for the return of the Training Division to the Public Service Ministry was that the training carried out was specific to public service management and so, should be with the Public Service Ministry.

An Internal Review and Restructuring

The Training and Development Division and Scholarships Administration Division which were created in the 1991 restructuring, were merged on 1 June 1997 to form one division, the Training Division.

It was the view of Management of Office of the President that the roles and functions of the Training and Development and the Scholarships Administration Divisions of Public Service Management needed redefining if the Public Service were to increase its efficiency and effectiveness in its delivery of services.

It was argued that the training initiatives that were being pursued by the Training and Development Division needed a sharper focus to allow Public Servants to function more efficiently and effectively in the discharge of their daily duties. It was felt that training initiatives should concentrate more on job related activities.

The other consideration that influenced the review was that the Government could not continue to finance an elaborate scholarship award scheme.

The Public Service Library

The Public Service Library has been in existence since 1964. It was located at the Public Service Training Centre in High Street at that point in time. It started with books stocked by the Training Division, which were for the use of the participants on training courses.

Later on the Library extended its service to members of the Public Service as whole.

Extracted from Public Service Ministry’s Circular No. 7/1969, PS. 13/0 of 20 February 1969