Chief Secretary

Chief Secretary
Entrance signed "Colonial Secretary" of the Chief Secretary's Building in Sydney (1873). A statue of Queen Victoria is barely visible through the door.

The Chief Secretary is the title of a senior civil servant in members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and, historically, in the British Empire. Prior to the dissolution of the colonies, the Chief Secretary was the second most important official in a colony of the British Empire after the Governor.




Originally the secretary to the Governor as well as secretary of the Colony this office was at first known as the Colonial Secretary or Principal Secretary outside British North America where the equivalent title was Provincial Secretary. In 1821, Governor of New South Wales Philip Gidley King wrote that the Colonial Secretary:

"Has the custody of all official papers and records belonging to the colony; transcribes the public despatches; charged with making out all grants, leases and other public Colonial instruments; also the care of numerous indents or lists sent with convicts of their terms of conviction, and every other official transaction relating to the Colony and Government; and is a situation of much responsibility and confidence."[1]

In Ireland, the role of Chief Secretary dated from 1660.

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century

In New South Wales the function of Colonial Secretary and secretary to the Governor were separated in 1824.

After the grant of responsible government, this office like its British equivalent, the First Lord of the Treasury was frequently the formal position held by the Colonial Premier because the office of Premier was not mentioned in any legislation. The Cape Colony was unusual in giving the Colonial Secretary at the Cape responsibility for defence.[2] Several of the Australian states and territories retained the title for many decades, the Chief Secretary's Departments ultimately evolving into the modern Premier's Departments in those states. New Zealand abolished the office in 1907.

In countries

India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and some other independent states which were British Colonies still have Chief Secretaries in the provinces, who are next in line after the Governors or Chief Ministers and hold superior powers in the bureaucracy.



In India each state and some Union Territories have Chief Secretaries. As such the Chief Secretary serves as Chief of all government staff in the state and is the Secretary of the State Cabinet of Ministers. The post of Chief Secretary is encadred within the Indian Administrative Service meaning that only an IAS officer may hold this position. The Chief Secretary holds the same rank as a Secretary to the Government of India and the post falls within the "above supertimescale-fixed". Other positions in this payscale are Additional or Special Chief Secretary and Special Secretary to the Government of India. By tradition the seniormost IAS officer of the state cadre is chosen as the Chief Secretary but in many cases this is not so. The Chief Secretary heads the Department of General Administration as well.


In Pakistan there are six Chief Secretaries, one for each of the four provinces and one each for Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas (Gilgit Agency). In Pakistan and India, Chief Secretaries are bureaucrats of Grade-21.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka has nine Chief Secretaries, one for each of the nine provinces. A Chief Secretary is a Special Grade officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service and is equivalent to a Permanent Secretary of the central government.

Other parts of the world

Territories with Chief Secretaries included Nigeria, Kenya and Tanganyika. Smaller territories used the term Colonial Secretary instead. The title of Colonial Secretary in Hong Kong was changed to Chief Secretary in 1976 and is still used (now referred to as Chief Secretary for Administration).

The Isle of Man also has a Chief Secretary, currently Will Greenhow, who is head of the island's civil service.

See also


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