Public Service Commission



The Public Service Commission (PSC) is the government agency responsible for the appointment, promotion, transfer, dismissal and exercise of disciplinary control over public officers in Singapore. It has another role as the administrator of government-funded scholarships aimed at attracting and grooming talent for public service. Since its establishment on 1 January 1951, the PSC has evolved to meet the changing new needs of the public service. However, its key mission continues to be the maintenance of integrity, impartiality and meritocracy in the public service.1

Background
The origins of the PSC can be traced to the White Paper (Command Paper no. 197) issued by the British government in 1946. Entitled Organisation of the Colonial Service, the paper stated that progress towards self-government could only be achieved in the British colonies if their public services were adapted to local conditions and staffed as much as possible by local people. Prior to that, civil servants, particularly those in the more senior positions, were expatriate officers from the United Kingdom and the Dominions, or those transferred from the administrative services of other colonies, and appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies.2 To open the public services in the colonies to more locals, Command Paper no. 197 recommended the granting of scholarships to promising local candidates to prepare them for appointments to the higher grades of the civil service.3 The paper also recommended the establishment of a Public Service Commission in the colonies to advise the governors on the selection and appointment of public officers.4


The 1947 Salaries Commission set up to look into the conditions of service of public officers in Singapore and the Malayan Union also recommended the setting up of a Public Service Commission. Its report noted that a PSC could deal with public service matters such as appointments, examinations and disciplinary control of public officers.5

Recommendation taken up
On 18 May 1948, N. A. Mallal, a member of the Legislative Council, tabled a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to examine and report on the establishment and terms of reference of a PSC.6 Appointed on 13 July 1948, this Select Committee was made up of C. W. A. Sennett, N. A. Mallal, E. R. Koek, P. F. de Souza and Lim Yew Hock.7 The Select Committee made five recommendations in its report presented to the Legislative Council on 15 March 1949.8 First, a PSC should be set up to appoint, promote and ensure the flow of candidates for the public service posts falling vacant in Singapore. Second, civil servants in Singapore should no longer fall under the purview of the Malayan Establishment, which had earlier been set up to recruit public officers for both Malaya and Singapore. Third, a separate Singapore Establishment should be set up to embrace every civil service post in Singapore “irrespective of whether they are reserved for the Unified Colonial Services or not”, and the Establishment Officer should be the Secretary of the PSC. Fourth, the PSC would be an advisory body and should have a statutory and independent character. Fifth, an ordinance for the setting up of the PSC determining both its functions and standing should be enacted. The key functions as stated in the draft bill put forth by the Select Committee included advising the Governor of Singapore on matters related to appointments and promotions, and exercising disciplinary actions against public officers.9

When the report of the Select Committee on the PSC came up before the Colonial Secretary, P. A. B. McKerron, on 21 June 1949, the second and third recommendations – that Singapore break away from the Malayan Establishment and that there should be a separate Singapore Establishment – were rejected.10 McKerron’s rejected these two recommendations on the grounds that they would be prejudicial to the interests of senior public service officers.11 He explained that the formation of a smaller and separate Singapore Establishment could prevent officers from enjoying the benefits offered by the larger Malayan Establishment. He clarified the perception that senior posts in Singapore were reserved for members of the Unified Colonial Services by tabling a White Paper on Recruitment to show that such positions would be reserved for locals.12 In short, McKerron sought a compromise by proposing to the Legislative Council that a PSC could be established in Singapore but without breaking away from the Malayan Establishment.13

First PSC Bill read
The PSC Bill was read for the first time by McKerron in the Legislative Council on 28 July 1949.14 During the second reading on 23 August 1949, McKerron listed the amendments that had been made to the draft presented in the Select Committee’s report. The principal amendment was the proposal to remove the ability of the PSC to advise the governor on matters related to the promotion of officers. In response, Legislative Council member C. C. Tan remarked that the removal of such a function rendered unnecessary the creation of a PSC. He pointed out that it would make the PSC “absolutely ineffective” and defeat the very purpose of its establishment, which was to ensure that there would be a sufficient number of local officers by the time Singapore achieved self-government. At the end of the second reading, the bill was submitted to the Select Committee to examine and report on it.15

When the Select Committee came back with its report, it decided that the PSC should be able to advise the governor on the promotions of public service officers.16 The report was adopted by the Legislative Council on 20 December 1949, the bill then read for the third time and passed on the same day.17

An advisory body at first
An interim PSC was set up on 1 March 1950 and replaced by the full-fledged agency when the PSC Ordinance came into effect on 1 January 1951.18 The first chairman of the PSC, Justice Gordon Smith, said that its formation was the “first milestone on the road to self-government” as it was to ensure that “those of the local citizens who were appointed to Government were qualified and fit to hold office”.19

In its early years, the PSC was an advisory body. It did not make appointments but advised the government on appointments and promotions. It did not have executive control of the public service until PSC Ordinance 1957 came into force on 29 January 1957. This 1957 Ordinance repealed and re-enacted, with amendments, the 1951 Ordinance.20 The 1957 Ordinance was based on the recommendations made by the Malayanisation Commission in Command Paper Number 65 of 1956, which spelt out proposals to bring more local officers into the upper ranks of the public service. The amended bill went through three readings and was passed on 6 December 1956.21

Under the 1957 PSC Ordinance, the governor was required to act in accordance with the advice of the PSC and could refer back to the commission any recommendation tendered for reconsideration once and only once.22  After Singapore achieved self-government in 1959, the governor was replaced as head of government by the Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Malay for “Head of State”), who continued to act on the PSC’s advice on matters related to the appointment, dismissal and discipline of public officers.23 The 1957 PSC Ordinance also stipulated that a local be appointed chairman of the PSC and that the membership of the commission should be enlarged from two to five members.24

Building the Singapore public service
The enactment of PSC Ordinance 1957 quickened the pace of localisation in Singapore’s public service. By the end of 1958, the PSC annual report showed that only 182 expatriate officers were in service, fewer than the 387 that had been originally expected to remain.25 This created a problem of finding qualified and experienced candidates for the vacated positions. To build up the pool of talent, the Singapore government started the Singapore State scholarship to attract and train officers for the public service. The PSC was called upon to select the candidates as well as to advise the government on policy matters related to scholarships, fellowships and all training awards in the public service.26



References

1. Public Service Commission. (2007, April 11). About the Public Service Commission. Retrieved from http://www.psc.gov.sg/AboutThePSC/What_It_Does.htm
2. Fernandez, W. (2001). Without Fear or Favour: 50 Years of Singapore’s Public Service Commission. Singapore: Times Media Private Limited, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING q352.63095957 FER); Colonial Office. (1946). Organisation of the Colonial Service (Cmd. 197 of 1946). London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 325.3142 GRE)
3.
Colonial Office. (1946). Organisation of the Colonial Service (Cmd. 197 of 1946). London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, p. 4–5. (Call no.: RCLOS 325.3142 GRE)
4.
Colonial Office. (1946). Organisation of the Colonial Service (Cmd. 197 of 1946). London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, p. 9. (Call no.: RCLOS 325.3142 GRE)
5.
Public Services Salaries Commission (1947). Report of the Public Services Salaries Commission of Malaya 1947 under the Chairmanship of Sir Harry Trusted, 1947. Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Union Govt. Press, pp. 12–13. (Call no.: RSING 351.12 MAL)
6.
Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1948, May 18). Motion by Mr. N. A. Mallal (1st session). Singapore: [s.n.], pp. B50–54. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
7.
Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1948, July 13). Select Committee on the Public Services Commission. (1st session). Singapore: [s.n.], p. B138. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
8.
Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, March 15). Report of the Select Committee on the Public Services Commission. (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.], pp. C241–253. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
9.
Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, March 15). Report of the Select Committee on the Public Services Commission. (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.], pp. C250–251. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
10.
Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, June 21). Motion by Mr. N. A. Mallal: Public Services Commission. (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.], pp. B217–235. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
11
. Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, June 21). Motion by Mr. N. A. Mallal: Public Services Commission. (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.], p. B223. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
12. 
 Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, June 21). Motion by Mr. N. A. Mallal: Public Services Commission. (2nd session), pp. B217–235. Singapore: [s.n.].  (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN).
13.
Quah, J. S. T. (2010). Public Administration Singapore Style. Singapore: Talisman Publishing Pte Ltd., p. 74. (Call no.: RSING 351.5957 QUA)
14.
Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, July 28). First reading of the Public Services Commission Bill (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.], p. B282. (Call no.: RCLOS 32.5957 SIN)
15. Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, August 23). Second reading of the Public Services Commission Bill ((2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.], pp. B313–317. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
16. Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, October 19). Report of the Select Committee Appointed by the Legislative Council to Examine and Report on the Public Services Commission Bill, 1949 (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.], pp. C690–693. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
17. Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, December 20). Third reading of the Public Services Commission Bill. (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.], pp. B502–504. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
18.
Colony of Singapore. Government Gazette. Supplement. (1951, January 1). The Public Services Commission Ordinance 1949 (Sp.S 1/1951). Singapore: [s.n.], p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 348.5957 SGGSLS)
19.
S’pore Public Services Commission First Milestone to Self-Rule. (1951, January 16). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20.
Colony of Singapore. Government Gazette. Supplement. (1957, January 25). The Public Services Commission Ordinance 1957 (Sp.S 7/1957). Singapore: [s.n.], p. 61. (Call no.: RCLOS 348.5957 SGGSLS); Fernandez, W. (2001). Without Fear or Favour: 50 Years of Singapore’s Public Service Commission. Singapore: Times Media Private Limited, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING q352.63095957 FER)
21.
Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report.(1956, December 6). First, second and third readings of the Public Services Commission Bill (Vol. 2). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 1151–1160. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
22.
Public Service Commission. (1958). Report of the Public Service Commission 1958. Singapore: Govt. Printers, pp. 2–3. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957001 SIN)
23.
Fernandez, W. (2001). Without Fear or Favour: 50 Years of Singapore’s Public Service Commission. Singapore: Times Media Private Limited, p. 32. (Call no.: RSING q352.63095957 FER)
24.
Colony of Singapore. Government Gazette. Supplement. (1957, December 21). The Public Services Commission Ordinance 1957 (Sp.S 95/1957). Singapore: [s.n.], p. 1200. (Call no.: RCLOS 348.5957 SGGLS)
25.
Public Service Commission. (1958). Report of the Public Service Commission 1958. Singapore: Govt. Printers, p. 4. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957001 SIN)
26.
Fernandez, W. (2001). Without Fear or Favour: 50 Years of Singapore’s Public Service Commission. Singapore: Times Media Private Limited, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING q352.63095957 FER)




Further resources

5 New Bills for S’pore Council. (1949, July 23). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

A domiciled civil service for the colony. (1950, June 13). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, April 12). Report of the Select Committee on Public Services Commission Withdrawn. (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.].

(Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)

Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, June 21). Recruitment White Paper. (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.].
(Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN )

Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, October 19). Public Services Commission Bill Select Committee’s Report. (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.].
(Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)

Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, November 15). Public Services Commission Bill Select Committee’s Report. (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.].
(Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)

Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. Proceedings. (1949, December 20). Public Services Commission Bill Adoption of Select Committee’s Report. (2nd session). Singapore: [s.n.].
(Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)

Colony of Singapore. Malayanisation Commission. Final Report of the Malayanisation Commission. (1956). Singapore: Govt. Printing Office.
(Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957001 SIN)

Colony of Singapore. Malayanisation Commission. Interim Report of the Malayanisation Commission. (1956). Singapore: Govt. Printing Office.
(Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957001 SIN)

Colony of Singapore. Malayanisation Commission. Malayanisation: Statement of Policy. (1956). Singapore: Govt. Printing Office.
(Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957001 SIN)

Colony of Singapore. Supplement to the Laws of the Colony of Singapore. (1950). Public Services Commission Ordinance 1949 (Ord. 55 of 1949). Singapore: [s.n.].
(Call no.: RCLOS 348.5957 SGGAS)

Command paper No. 197. (1949, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Commission to study public services. (1948, May 19). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Control of promotions disputed. (1949, August 16). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Council and enquiry into Govt. services. (1948, July 12). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Council move on services commission. (1949, June 17). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Council to discuss public services. (1948, May 7). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Earmarked positions. (1949, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Echoes from the Council Chamber. (1949, March 19). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Govt. Posts: Break away suggested. (1949, March 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Government promotion. (1951, January 12). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Govt. promotions plan for colony commission. (1949, October 20). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG

Higher jobs for local men move. (1949, June 21). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Higher posts in Govt.: warning. (1949, July 23). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Highest posts for local-born men. (1949, June 22). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Jobs commission planned. (1948, May 19). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Judge heads commission. (1950, February 21). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Judge to head jobs commission. (1950, February 22). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Local-born for higher grades. (1949, December 20). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Local-born ladder. (1950, May 25). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Locally born for higher posts. (1949, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

More and equal pay for govt. employees. (1947, December 9). The Singapore Free Press, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

More pay for public servants. (1947, December 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

More top jobs now open to local officers. (1950, March 30). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

New commission and promotion. (1949, August 24). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

No S’pore Establishment. (1949, June 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Officials may not have a voice. (1949, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Promotion powers suggested. (1949, August 24). The Singapore Free Press, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Proposals to apply to local officers. (1947, December 10). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Proposed terms of Commission. (1949, June 27). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Public Service Bill for Council Soon. (1949, July 19). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Public Service Bill passed. (1949, December 21). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG database.

Public Service Commission. (1949, November 16). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Public service questions for the Council. (1948, July 10). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Public Services Chairman says: no bars to local men. (1950, May 19). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Public Service Plan. (1947, December 9). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Public services body named. (1950, December 28). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Public Services Commission. (1951). Report of the Public Services Commission 1951. Singapore: Govt. Printers.
(Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957001 SIN)

Public Services Commission. (1956). Report of the Public Services Commission 1956. Singapore: Govt. Printers.
(Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957001 SIN)

Public Services Commission to sit next week. (1950, December 20). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Public services debate. (1949, June 20). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Qualified rapture. (1949, June 21). The Singapore Free Press, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Salaries body now ready to start work. (1947, April 28). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Selection and promotion: Ceylon’s experience. (1948, January 12). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

S’pore Public Services Commission to be created. (1949, June 22). The Singapore Free Press, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

S’pore recruitment scheme. (1949, December 21). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Sir Harry Trusted arriving. (1947, April 12). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The Colony cadets. (1949, June 25). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The domiciled revolt. (1949, June 23). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The public services. (1949, March 16). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Top govt. jobs open to Asians. (1950, May 24). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Top posts for local men: action wanted. (1949, April 2). The Singapore Free Press, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Vital bills passed. (1949, December 21). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Wage commissions are named. (1947, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Watch on new posts in govt. (1950, July 26). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Wider powers to be urged. (1949, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 10 September 2013 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Public service commissions
Civil service ethics
Watchdogs
Scholarships (Financial aid)
Organisations