Permanent no more

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still have one apple. But if you and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas” – George Bernard Shaw

RECENTLY I was introduced by a friend to his elderly mother. She asked me, “Beta (son) what do you do? I replied, “Aunty, I am a Permanent Secretary”. She looked at me confused and said, “Do you do typing, beta”? The title of permanent secretary is a quaint but an important left over of our British heritage and the British regard for the rule of law.

It is an office based in law. A recent Commonwealth Secretariat Study on the role of permanent secretaries describes that in the Westminster model of government, the Permanent Secretary is the administrative head of a department or ministry.

They are “permanent” in the sense that they are normally career civil servants who have tenure beyond the life of any government, although in more recent times the permanence has evolved into Permanent Secretaries being apolitical with a capacity of providing administrative continuity through change in of governments at the political level, in a democracy, even if their tenures are under fixed term contracts.

This concept of permanence has evolved necessarily into longer term contracts, for example, five years in New Zealand.

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