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Key powers and responsibilities of Secretaries in a devolved APS

(ADMF paper, 1997)

Improved accountability

Secretaries will be more accountable for the exercise of their powers in that they will:

  • be appointed and terminated by the Prime Minister;
  • be accountable to their Ministers for the management of their Departments;
  • be required to report to Parliament on Departmental outcomes;
  • be obliged to uphold the APS Values and Code of Conduct;
  • be bound by the Public Service Commissioner’s Directions in such matters as merit, employment equity and grievances
  • as well as by the provisions of the Workplace Relations Act;
  • provide staff with rights of review of employment decisions;
  • have to establish mechanisms to handle disclosures in the public interest (whistleblowing); and
  • have their employment practices monitored for the Commissioner’s Annual Report on the State of the Service
  • with the Commissioner having powers of investigation.

Devolved responsibility

Secretaries will have enhanced power to:

  • engage employees on behalf of the Commonwealth on either an ongoing or temporary basis;
  • negotiate pay and conditions at the agency level;
  • adapt job classification structures to the needs of the agency;
  • decide the conditions for engagement, advancement, promotion and transfer of employees;
  • set qualification requirements;
  • determine appropriate periods of probation;
  • establish training arrangements;
  • decide on what terms an employee may engage in other employment;
  • recognise and reward high performing employees;
  • terminate, assign to other duties or reduce the salary of unsatisfactory or underperforming employees;
  • adopt misconduct procedures;
  • establish internal grievance mechanisms;
  • retire an excess employee; and
  • select, engage, transfer or retire members of the SES.
Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018