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Proposed role and function of head of the Public Service
Role/Function of Permanent Secretaries

In the Westminster model of government adopted by Trinidad and Tobago, Permanent Secretaries are the Administrative Heads of Ministries. They are ‘permanent’ in the sense that they are normally career public servants who have tenure beyond the life of any particular government. Permanent Secretaries perform their duty in conjunction with their minister’s world of party politics, caucuses, the hullabaloo of national politics, the media, and public perceptions.

As the policy advisor to the Minister, the Permanent Secretary is expected to provide objective advice on issues—on the government’s options in dealing with them, and on the implications of each option. Policy advice should always be based on a combination of hard evidence and intuitive assessment. It often requires a complete understanding of complex technical, legal and financial issues. Since they always have important political implications for both the Minister and the government as a whole, all policy matters are taken to the Cabinet by the Minister in the form of a Note for Cabinet.

The Minister, also, has other policy advisors. They may include people from his or her political party, as well as outside experts. But traditionally the Permanent Secretary plays the central role in developing policy options and in recommending courses of action to the Minister. The Permanent Secretary is responsible for gathering and analyzing the evidence to support a course of action(or inaction) proposed to a Minister.

As a member of the Public Service top management team, the Permanent Secretary shares a collective responsibility for the management of the Public Service as a whole. Participation in the collective management of the Public Service may also include serving on Special Task Forces, heading Corporate Projects, or participating on Committees both locally and internationally.

The most senior Permanent Secretary is the Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister who by tradition is titular Head of the Public Service.

The Head of the Public Service should have effective interpersonal skills and the capacity and experience to earn the respect, not only of the political directorate, but of his/her colleagues. Indeed, the prime qualification of the Head of the Public Service should be exceptional managerial, political and diplomatic skills. The incumbent should be visionary, highly articulate and capable of providing strong intellectual direction for the Public Service.