The two bills introduced by Prime Minister James Marape to return to Government the position of ‘Chief Secretary’ received overwhelming support in Parliament today with all Members from both sides of the House speaking for and none against it.
The Prime Minister and National Executive Council (Amendment) Bill 2022 and the accompanying Public Services (Management)(Amendment) Bill 2022 were successfully passed today (231122) restoring the position, which was previously in place but abolished in 2020.
In introducing the bills, PM Marape said the need for the post was to ensure Public Service followed directions of Government and that performance was heightened, consistent with given Government Key Result Areas.
PM Marape said: “When we took office in 2019, Government caucus then resolved to abolish the Office of Chief Secretary to allow ministers to function with their departmental heads to deliver to our people and our government’s expectations.
Sadly, three years on, we realized that there is lack of leadership or no leadership at the Public Service operational level, their performance has dropped no functional alignments and no day-to-day administrative oversight hence accountability of their performance is lacking or has now dropped.
We now, through this bill, are restoring the Office of Chief Secretary and all departmental and agency heads are to – whilst reporting to the Minister – also report administratively to the Chief Secretary so we are progressive in as far as Government Key Result Areas are concerned for our national development aspirations.”
In the required debate session that ensured, all speakers on both sides of the House spoke in support of this change. Southern Highlands Governor Hon. William Powi said:
“I want to commend the Government that this is the right direction for the future of this country. If you look at the implementation of government, Waigani is a swamp, nothing gets moving.
You need office of the Chief Secretary and the CACC process to have an oversight in government coordination and implementation.
This is a very important business of national interest. Submissions cannot be rushed through to the NEC; they must first go through the buffer process.
Ministers are not supposed to take their submissions directly to NEC. This Office will protect the interest of the nation through the CACC process – there are financial implications, implementation implications, Constitutional implications.
These must go through this scrutiny.
When it reaches NEC, it is the nation’s interest.” Minister for Public Service, Hon. Joe Sungi said: “Right now, we have 121 national agencies and 130,000 public servants on government payroll.
With that mammoth task of managing the Public Service, the Office of Chief Secretary is to not only to look after the central agencies and national departments, but also bring in line the performance of the provincial administrators, as most of the implementation and coordination of policies is at the provincial level.
Provincial administrators are caught in between because they do not have a clear reporting system.
They only submit the Performance Management Report every March to Department of Provincial Affairs (together with several other reports).
But on top of that, in terms of performance tracking, we fall way behind. There must be oversight to hold the provincial administrators accountable at the top level.” Member for Pomio, Hon. Elias Kapavore said:
“From the Opposition, we would like to commend the Prime Minister for reintroducing the Office of the Chief Secretary to CACC level. I thank the Minister for Public Service for his input.
This Office plays a pivotal role to make sure that the bureaucracy is in order.
There will be alignment in reporting and the bureaucracy taking the lead in implementing many of the government policies.
The annual reports: many of our departmental heads do not comply with the requirements of the Public Service Management Act.
We hope that this becomes one of the important KPIs when assessing their performance. Non-compliance is a disciplinary matter that requires termination.”
Minister for Petroleum, Hon. Kerenga Kua said:
“I am aware that some governors, ministers, MPs and especially departmental heads are sitting in other positions as directors or members of committees of many other companies, statutory authorities, agencies, commissions, etc. That is not a bad thing but it does affect the productivity of the person in charge, on their primary role as the manager of that department. This situation has to be avoided. I want the Minister Public Service to take note of this while we talking about improving the efficiency of the Public Service. I support this bill.”
Member for Ialibu-Pangia, Hon. Peter O’Neill said:
“I thank the Prime Minister for bringing this particular bill on the Floor. Having a central agency and a Chief Secretary and CACC for that matter is something that can hold the Public Service to account. Chief Secretary’s position is an important position. I think this decision will stabilize the Public Service machinery so that it can continue to be accountable and deliver to the nation. The Public Service is an implementing machinery. It must be stable and accountable. This is a timely intervention especially when we starting a new term of Parliament. That is why I commend the Prime Minister for having the wisdom to bring this position back.”