Function VF 68
Public service
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Background

In 1856 Governor Hotham appointed a Board of Inquiry to investigate arrangements for the better organisation of the permanent Public Service. Its report (initially confidential but subsequently published as a Parliamentary Paper) recommended a system whereby all permanent recruits were initially examined and appointed by a central examining board with subsequent promotions on the basis of merit by a permanent board. Power to appoint department heads and permanent chief officers presided by a minister were to be appointed by the Governor in Council.

It does not appear as though these recommendations were initiated, as a Royal Commission was held in 1859. Although this Commission criticised a perceived absence of any general rules regarding appointments, promotions, etc it essentially stated that such matters were best left to the departmental heads. This approach was basically consolidated in the Civil Service Act 1862.

Another Royal Commission was established in 1870 and produced a final report in 1873 which recommended the principle of a single public service for all departments and the formation of a permanent Board to administer a system where all appointments, etc were made on merit. The aim of these recommendations was to end appointments and promotions made by political patronage and to limit the appointments of supernumeraries (additional officers). Supernumeraries were not permanent officers and as such did not have to sit the appointment examination.

Establishment of the Public Service Board

The Public Service Board was established under Section 4 of the Public Service Act 1883 to carry out the provisions of the act, which essentially incorporated the recommendations of the 1873 Royal Commission. It initially comprised three persons appointed by the Governor in Council. A permanent servant could also be appointed to act as Secretary to the Board.

It provided independent advice to the Government relating to the following broad aspects of Public Service administration for most of its existence:

determination of organisation and administrative structures, particularly with respect to the classification of public servants

determination of equitable and fair employment provisions for public servants, particularly through the establishment and maintenance of systems (including appeal mechanisms) for the appointment, promotion and termination on the grounds of merit, and

determination of general staffing and management arrangements through the determination of uniform conditions such as leave arrangements, the Public Service Regulations and punishments for breaching regulations.

The composition and title of the Board has been subject to change. The original composition of three members was replaced by a single member known as the Public Service Commissioner by the Public Service Act 1901. A three member Public Service Board was re constituted by the Public Service Act 1940.

The Board was originally formed as part of the Premier's Office established in 1883 to provide administrative support to the head of government and which was initially a sub-department of the Department of the Treasurer. In 1894 the Chief Secretary assumed responsibility for the Premier's Office and staff of the Public Service Board were transferred to the Chief Secretary's Department. In 1928 responsibility for the Premier's Office transferred back to the Department of the Treasurer, however the staff of the Public Service Commissioner (as the agency was known at this time) did not transfer to the Department of the Treasurer until 1936, before transferring to the Department of the Premier in February 1937.

The Public Service Act was amended on a number of occasions after 1883 although these amendments do not appear to have significantly changed the basic role of the Board.

Three further investigations of the Public Service were held in this period:

A Royal Commission appointed on 17 February 1916 to report on `the workings of the Public Departments ... excepting the Railways Department'

A 1926 Board of Inquiry into the methods of the Public Service including the existence and incidence of `extravagance, overlapping or overstaffing', and

A Board of Inquiry to inquire upon the role, organisational structure, management and staffing of the Public Service. The recommendations of this Board directly led to the framing of the Public Service Act 1974.

By 1981 there was a major change in emphasis with the Board largely dealing with the formulation of policy, the provision of a range of consultancy services to Government and the development of a more responsive and performance oriented personnel system. To reflect this shift in emphasis of the Board's activities, a major restructuring was undertaken including a wide range of personnel delegations to most departments.

Subsequent Agencies

The teaching service was removed from the Public Service by the Public Service and the Teaching Service Acts (Nos 5124 and 5125 of 1946). The Teachers Tribunal (VA 2311) was established to exercise in relation to the teaching service some of the functions exercised in relation to the public service by the Public Service Board.

The Promotions Appeals Board (VA 1418) was established to consider appeals from officers concerning their failure to be provisionally promoted to offices in the Second and Third Divisions. Thus the Public Service Board was relieved of this function (refer to the Public Service Act 1974 : proclaimed on 1 August 1975)

The Board was abolished under the provisions of the Public Sector Management Act 1992. It was replaced by the Office of the Public Service Commissioner which was attached to the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The specific duties of the Commissioner were set out in Section 45 of the Act. These could be summarised as the following broad functions:

* determination of public sector employment policies, including the development, establishment and application of guidelines, procedures, a code of conduct for public servants and merit selection principles including the establishment of review and appeal mechanisms through the appointment of a Tribunal and grievance mediator

* advisory responsibilities regarding public sector employment issues including remuneration and personnel policy and practice, and

* responsibility for the establishment of selection committees and recruitment of Department Heads and prescribed officers identified in Section 17(1) of the Act.

The Commissioner was required to act independently in performing these duties and was assisted by an Office under his/her control.

The Office of the Public Service Commissioner was replaced by the Public Sector Management and Employment Act 1998 by the statutory Commissioner of Public Employment. The Office of Public Employment supports the Commissioner who has a set of statutory functions with reference to public employment and oversight of public employment
 
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Other InformationOther Information
 
Agencies with prime responsibility for this FunctionAgencies with prime responsibility for this Function
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Date of Responsibility Agency Title Agency Number
1936 - cont Commonwealth Public Service Board VA 2832
1946 - cont Dr. E.W. Russell VA 2956
- 1992 Public Service Board (known as Public Service Commissioner 1901-40) VA 886
1992 - 1998 Office of the Public Service Commissioner VA 3088
1998 - 2005 Office of Public Employment VA 4268
2005 - 2014 State Services Authority VA 4781
2014 - cont Victorian Public Sector Commission VA 5026
 
Other Agencies responsible for this FunctionOther Agencies responsible for this Function
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Groups related to this FunctionGroups related to this Function
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Date of Responsibility Group Title Group Number
- 1894 Treasurer VRG 23
1894 - 1936 Chief Secretary VRG 26
1936 - 1937 Treasurer VRG 23
1937 - cont Premier VRG 50