History and evolution of public sector management


The Public Service Act 1904 comes into effect. The Act provides for the Governor to appoint a Public Service Commissioner who is responsible for ensuring the establishment and continuance of a proper standard of efficiency and economy in the public service.

The Commissioner acquires broad investigatory powers to ensure compliance with the Act, and can make recommendations to the Governor regarding the general structure of the public service including the disposition of officers and offices.

The Commissioner is also appointed chairman of the three-person Appeal Board.


The Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations Act 1971 comes into effect.


The Public Service Act 1978 repeals the 1904 Act and abolishes the position of the Public Service Commissioner, replacing it with a three-member Public Service Board headed by a Chairman appointed for a seven-year term. 

The Board is granted exclusive authority over matters relating to the configuration of offices and the employment and placement of public service staff. There is still a process of making recommendations to the Governor regarding the configuration of departments, the designation of senior offices, and the appointment and removal of senior officers or department heads.

The new Act makes explicit that departmental heads are responsible to their Minister for the general management of the department but will also consult and work with the Board to achieve optimal operational efficiency.


The Burke Government releases a white paper entitled Managing change in the public sector.


The Acts Amendment (Public Service) Act 1987 amends the 1978 Act and abolishes the Public Service Board, reverting to a single Public Service Commissioner assuming the Board’s responsibilities. The 1987 amendments establish a Senior Executive Service (SES), establishing departmental heads as Chief Executive Officers.


The Royal Commission into the Commercial Activities of Government (known as WA Inc.) reports with significant recommendations around the management of the public sector. 

The Freedom of Information Act 1992 comes into effect.


The Independent Commission to Review Public Sector Finance (the McCarrey Commission) reports.

Based on recommendations from the Royal and Independent Commissions, the Court Government presents a Bill to Parliament to establish the Public Sector Management Act 1994.

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The Public Sector Management Act 1994 comes into effect. The position of the Public Sector Commissioner is abolished, replaced by the Commissioner for Public Sector Standards. The Commissioner is an independent statutory officer responsible for establishing and monitoring the Code of Ethics and conduct of the sector, and reporting to Parliament on compliance with Standards and Codes.

Responsibility for promoting the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector is moved from the Commissioner to the Minister responsible for the new Act, the Premier. The Premier can arrange for reviews in respect to the operation of any public sector body and direct ‘special inquiries’ into any matter relating to the public sector.

While the new Commissioner undertakes recruitment of Chief Executive Officers, it is carried out on the advice of the Premier who now has responsibility for recommending appointments and removals to the Governor. The scope of the legislation is also broadened so that it applies to more of the public sector—beyond the public service.


The Commission on Government—established under the Commission on Government Act 1994—tables five reports across two years. The Commission was established in response to a recommendation made by the WA Inc. Royal Commission. Its functions were to inquire into and report upon 24 specific matters which emerged during the Royal Commission’s investigations, and any other matters it considered relevant to preventing corrupt, illegal or improper conduct by public officials. 

A hallmark of the Commission was its open and transparent approach to community consultation. The Commission’s recommendations laid the foundations for the current-day accountability and oversight framework.


The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003 and the original Corruption and Crime Commission Act 2003 come into effect.


The Auditor General Act 2006 comes into effect.


Establishment of the Public Sector Commission. By delegation, the new Commissioner assumes responsibility for all functions administered by the Minister for Public Sector Management with the exception of powers relating to special inquiries and employment of Ministerial officers.


Introduction of the Public Sector Reform Bill 2009 which merges the functions of the Public Sector Commissioner and the Commissioner for Public Sector Standards. The Bill was assented to on 1 October 2010. The new Act underpins the Commissioner’s capacity to operate as an independent statutory body, providing a more logical and integrated approach to ensuring management efficiency and appropriate standards of conduct and behaviour. 


The Corruption, Crime and Misconduct Act 2003 comes in to effect. The Public Sector Commission assumes responsibility for oversight of minor misconduct and misconduct prevention and education. The Corruption and Crime Commission retains responsibility for serious misconduct and all Police misconduct.


The Integrity (Lobbyists) Act 2016 comes into effect.


Commencement of a major public sector renewal agenda with a focus on cultural change, continuous improvement, legislation and policy reform, and budget processes.

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Page last updated 19 October 2017