Historical path of the Public Service Commission

During the era when Sri Lanka was a colony under the British Empire, the first Public Service Commission was established by the Ceylon (Constitution) Order in Council of 15th May 1946. The Public Service Commission was thereby vested with the executive powers of appointment, promotion, transfer, disciplinary control and dismissal of public officers.

With the adoption of the first Republican Constitution in 1972 the Public Service Commission which was hitherto in existence for 26 years was abolished and the authoritative power over the public service was vested in the Cabinet of Ministers.

The second Republican Constitution of 1978 re-established the Public Service Commission and it functioned only as the Appellate Authority. In 1992, this Commission by virtue of the delegated authority vested in it by the Cabinet of Ministers exercised the executive powers of appointment, promotion, transfer, disciplinary control and dismissal of public officers (except higher positions of Senior Assistant Secretary and above). The Cabinet of Ministers retained with it the authority to alter, vary or rescind any decision made by the Commission or a Committee thereof with delegated powers.

The 17th Amendment to the Constitution in 2001 nullified the hitherto existed Chapter IX of the Constitution concerning the public service and a new chapter was incorporated. As such, the Public Service Commission consisted of members, not more than nine in number, appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council and one person from among such members was appointed as the Chairman of the Public Service Commission. This particular amendment brought about a robust change into the profile of the Public Service Commission and the authority vested in the Cabinet of Ministers with regard to appointment, promotion, transfer and disciplinary control of the public service was delegated to the Public Service Commission subject to the provisions of the Constitution. Moreover, the Public Service Commission in this instance was made an institution accountable and answerable to the Parliament adhering to its Standing Orders.

In the year 2010, matters pertaining to the establishment and functions of the Public Service Commission have been revised by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. This ought to be a Commission answerable to Parliament in keeping with its Standing Orders. In terms of Sub Article 54(1) of the Constitution as amended by its 18th Amendment, the Public Service Commission consists of not more than nine members appointed by the President. Of this number, members not less than three should be persons with experience as public officers for more than fifteen years. The President will appoint one of such members as the Chairman of the Public Service Commission. They hold office for a term of three years and are eligible for reappointment for one further term.

In pursuance of Article 55(1) of the Constitution as amended by its 18th Amendment, the Cabinet of Ministers shall provide for all policy matters concerning the public officers. Subject to provisions of the Constitution, the Public Service Commission has been vested with the powers of appointment, promotion, transfer and disciplinary control of the public officers including police officers.

In terms of Article 54(1) of the Constitution as amended by the 19th Amendment, the Public Service Commission consists of nine members appointed by the President. Of this number, members not less than three should be persons with experience as public officers for more than fifteen years. The President will, on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council, appoint one of such members as its Chairman. Subject to provisions of the Constitution, the Public Service Commission has been vested with the powers of appointment, promotion, transfer and disciplinary control of the public officers. Powers over police officers and audit officers were removed from the scope of the Public Service Commission with the establishment of the National Police Commission and the Audit Commission by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

The Education Service Committee and Health Service Committee have been established in terms of the provisions in Article 57(1) of the Constitution.

The Public Service Commission was established as an independent commission by the 19th amendment to the Constitution in the year 2015. The President herein appoints members constituting 09 persons for this Commission as recommended by the Constitutional Council. And also, the President, on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council, appoints one of such members as its Chairman. Consequent to the establishment of the independent National Police Commission and National Audit Commission anew by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, appointment, promotion, transfer, disciplinary control and dismissal of officers appointed by such 02 Commissions were removed from the scope of the Public Service Commission.

Accordingly, this Commission presently discharges the duties of appointment, promotion, transfer, disciplinary control and dismissal of all other public officers as a whole numbering approximately one million including the officers in the field of education in the Provincial Councils except the officers appointed by the President and the Cabinet of Ministers and officers in three Armed Forces and Police and those appointed by the National Audit Commission.