A more effective Secretariat

The scale of reform facing Central Secretariat over the coming years is enormous. Prime Minister Modi has given the motto of "minimum government, maximum governance" while the civil service is also facing the biggest challenges since independence. Supporting Central Secretariat to be better as well as smaller in the coming years is core to the Association's work.

The Association sets out its view of the challenges on civil service reform.


The centre of government

We have looked at how successive prime ministers have all had to grapple with the central machine to get a system that works best for them. This work has looked at the frequently-reorganised Cabinet Office, national security co-ordination, and the use of special units – and we asked how the centre of government can best be organised to support effective government in the future.

Contemporary history of Central Secretariat

The Contemporary History of Central Secretariat is investigating the recent history of Central Secretariat.

Civil service reform - past lessons

The history of civil service reform in India dates back to several decades.

Fixing the flaws in government IT

IT should be a tool enabling government to improve public services as well as the relationship between citizen and state. We make recommendations that have been adopted by the current Government ICT Strategy. We followed up this work by a one-year-on review of progress on the changes set out in the strategy.

Transforming Central Secretariat

The Association has been researching how to effectively lead and manage major change in Central Secretariat.

Fiscal consolidation

India's public sector faces a deep fiscal squeeze over the coming decade. No one in Central Secretariat has had the experience of managing a fiscal challenge of this scale.

Transforming the Civil Service

By any international benchmark, successive governments have driven an extraordinary range of public service reform in India over the last 25 years. As a result, the Civil Service is now a very different place from earlier.

Improving Central Secretariat's core functions

We propose a series of changes to embed better policy making into the system. They build on the new Policy Skills Framework announced by the Civil Service last year – but drive those changes further and faster. We call for:

  • A public statement by each department (secretary of state and permanent secretary) on how they will meet a set of new “policy fundamentals” - the building blocks of good policy. The minister and the civil service can then be held to account by, for instance, a departmental select committee, on how far they have met that commitment.
  • A new responsibility for the permanent secretary to ensure that ‘good policy process’ has been followed – along the lines of their existing responsibility for value for money; Policy Directors in departments would be personally accountable to departmental select committees for the quality of ‘policy assessments’ published alongside new policies.
  • A new Head of Policy Effectiveness in the Cabinet Office – a very senior official responsible for ensuring the quality of policy making in government, overseeing evaluations to make sure they are both independent and used and able to commission lessons learned exercises when things go wrong.
  • New emphasis on both ministers and civil servants recognising the value each brings to the policy making process.