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Role of Civil Service | History of Civil Service | Civil Service Today | Civil Service Policies | Regulations Governing Civil Service | State of Civil Service


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The Brunei Civil Service
An Introduction


Role of Civil Service

Brunei Darussalam is a Malay Muslim Monarchy whereby His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam is the Head of State and Chief Executive. The conduct of state affairs rests primarily on the basis of the constitution, law and legislation and an independent judiciary.

The role of the civil service is as the government’s administrative machinery to uphold the supreme authority of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, uphold the National Philosophy – MIB, Melayu Islam Beraja, ensure the development of the country and ensure the welfare of the people as well as its traditional role as the peace keeper, law enforcer, regulator and service providers. However the adjudication system is separate from the civil service to maintain its independence and impartiality.

The civil service is also responsible in assisting the government in the formulation and implementation of government policies including foreign affairs, defence, monetary and fiscal policies, economic and practically every issue that the government needs.

The civil service also assists in the articulation of government policies through various government agencies such as the Information Department and the Radio Television Brunei. These agencies help to disseminate information to the public as well as provide a two-way communication channels between the government and the people.

In addition, the Civil Service is also expected to be the facilitator, modernizer as well as thinker for the Government. As facilitator, it is expected to facilitate the public’s dealing with the government as well as continuously improve and upgrade its service quality.

As modernizer, it is expected to be the developer and bring modernization by having educated, creative and innovative civil servants which will enable it to introduce and carry out systematic and strategic plans. As a thinker, it is expected to provide ideas and constructive and positive plans vitally needed in the administrative of the government.

Most importantly, the role of the civil service machinery is to provide good governance to the people and the state – good governance covers all aspects of administration and services including transparency of service delivery. I believe it is worth emphasising that for us here in Brunei Darussalam, the civil service aim to assist the government towards a system of good governance that enriches and protects our society. This is very clearly embodied in the proclamation made by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during Brunei’s independence in 1984. In which among others His Majesty proclaimed that -

“Brunei shall be forever a sovereign, democratic and independent Malay, Muslim Monarchy upon the teachings of Islam according to Ahlis Sunnah Waljemaah and based upon the principle of liberty, trust and justice and ever seeking………..the peace and security, welfare and happiness of our people……….”

History of Civil Service

Brunei has a long history which stretches at least 600 years back to the first Sultan. Its civil service has functioned since then even though not in the current form that we see today.

Prior to the additional Agreement between Brunei and UK in 1906, Brunei practiced a system of traditional civil service which was said to originate by Sultan Hassan, the 9th Sultan of Brunei through a Canon known as the “Sultan Hassan Canon” or Constitution. All the Wazirs, Pengiran-Pengiran Cheterias and Pehin-Pehin Manteris are awarded titles according to the duties they have to carry out. The powers they held are very powerful. In some areas, they are responsible for the collection of taxes and other duties and revenues.

Brunei signed an agreement with the British under the 1888 Agreement. In 1906, an additional Agreement was signed to ensure that Brunei remained protected. The 1906 Agreement brought with it the British Resident who established a more westernized oriented civil service. For instance, the traditional land ownership was replaced by a government owned lands after compensation payment was made to the original landowners. The British ran the civil service, except in affairs relating to adat istiadat and religion, until 1942 with the outbreak of the second world war.

After the Japanese left Brunei in 1945, the civil service was run by the temporary British Military Administration (BMA).

Under the wise leadership of Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien, he brought about the Brunei written Constitution in 1959 which established a strong foundation for the development of the Brunei Civil Service.

Under the Constitution, the public service was officially established with the power to appoint, transfer, promote, dismiss or exercise disciplinary control over public officers vested in His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. The Constitution also formally appointed a Public Service Commission which will advise His Majesty on matters relating to public officers. The Public Service Commission Act was later enacted in 1961 and also the General Orders which governed the appointments and promotions of civil servants as well as the disciplinary procedures. This is the beginning of the modern Brunei Civil Service as is known today.


The Civil Service Today

The supreme executive authority of the government of Brunei is vested in His Majesty both as the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan and as Prime Minister, while administratively the executive functions of the Government are carried out by Ministries and Departments.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan can consult and be advised by various Councils, Committees and Task Forces. Some of these are formed formally under the Constitution or by decree, and some are ad-hoc and temporary.

The most important councils are the ones formally formed under the Constitution and these are the Privy Council or the Majlis Mesyuarat Diraja, the Council of Ministers or Majlis Mesyuarat Menteri-Menteri, the Legislative Council or Majlis Mesyuarat Negeri, the Council of Succession or Majlis Mesyuarat Mengangkat Raja and the Council of Islamic Religion formed under the Religious and Kadhis Act of 1955.

The Privy Council advises His majesty in relation to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy and in relation to the amendment or revocation of any of the provisions of the Constitutions as well as the appointment of persons to Malay Customary ranks, titles, honours and dignities. The Council of Ministers advises His Majesty in the exercise and performance of his duties. The Legislative Council advises His Majesty on the enactment of legislations. However His Majesty may enact any legislation even without the advice of the Legislative Council. The Council of Succession advises His Majesty on matters related to the succession of the throne. The Council of Islamic Religion advises His Majesty on matters of Islamic Religion.

Many other Committees and Task Forces also advise His Majesty and the Government as permanent bodies or ad-hoc bodies. These include the Education Council, Economic Council, Defence Executive Committee, National Committees on many matters including social problems, drugs and so on. A number of economic committees have also been formed including the National Development Committee and the Human Resources Committee. The Permanent Secretaries Meeting is also part of the whole fabric of committees and councils advising the Government. Other committees include the Tender Board.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan in the 2004 National Day Titah has announced the commitment of the government towards upgrading and improving the physical infrastructure beyond 2005. His Majesty also announced the formation of two agencies – one, a task force to look into the government vision and the other, an Economic Long-Term Planning body to be headed a Minister responsible for the framework and development planning of the country for the next 30 years beginning the year 2006.

In carrying out the duties, the Civil Service are made up of 12 Ministries and some 90+ government departments and agencies. Each ministry has its own departments, directorates and units under its purview. Ministers heading the ministries are appointed by His Majesty. The total number of Ministries today is 12 with some Ministers heading more than one ministry. Permanent Secretaries act as the Chief Executive Officers of the ministries. Currently there are 21 Permanent Secretaries. Ministries have one or two Permanent Secretaries with the exception of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Currently the Prime Minister’s Office has 6 Permanent Secretaries. All the Permanent Secretaries are in turn assisted by Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Director-Generals, Directors and Heads of Departments.

As you are aware, some titles of Directors differ and uses the word Generals such as Accountant-General is the Director for Treasury Department, Auditor-General is the Director for Audit Department, Post-Master General is the Director for Postal Services Department, Surveyor-General is the Director for Survey, titles without Generals include Commissioner of Land is the Director for Land, Controller of Customs and Excise is the Director for Customs and Excise and not forgetting the most famous District Officers are the Directors for the various District Administrations and so on.


Civil Service Policies

Who looks after the Civil Service policies in Government? With regard to the Civil Service, the three central agencies are the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Commission or SPA – Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam.

The Prime Minister’s Office is the central coordinating body for all Government Ministries and Agencies as it relates to national policies and for the implementation of those policies; it is also the central agency in the management and administration of the Government and the Civil Service.

The Treasury’s role is to allocate, determine the fiscal framework, enforcing the 1983 Financial Regulations as well as monitoring and adjusting government spending and revenues.

The PSC or SPA is an independent body responsible for recruitment and selection of personnel in the Civil Service; and also advised His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on the appointment, transfer, promotion and disciplinary control of public officers excluding members of the Armed Forces, the Police Force and Prison Services.

In addition, we also have several government bodies that served to assist the above agencies which are:

  • Public Service Department or JPA – Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam which formulates, implements and provides appropriate Human Resources Management and Human Resource Development policies, programmes and services;


  • We also have the Management Services Department (MSD) which operates as the Civil Service’s in-house Research & Development department; and helps the government to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency and performance of service delivery to the public by the civil service through provision of quality consultancy/advisory service, research and support services


  • Finally, we have the Civil Service Institute or IPA – Institut Perkhidmatan Awam which is responsible for the training of civil servants by formulating and implementing various training programmes for the development of skills, knowledge and quality of leadership of the civil servants.

For completeness sake, we have a number of committees which assisted in the formulation of policies relating to the civil services – the two major ones are the Jawatankuasa Tanggagaji dan Syarat-Syarat Perkhidmatan (JTG) – which is responsible for reviewing salaries, salary structure, schemes of services, terms of services as well as services and regulations governing civil service; and Jawatankuasa Pembaharuan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPPA) – which is responsible for modernization of the civil service which will include looking at restructuring and reorganization proposals and any reviews of modernizing and changing the civil service. These two committees are interlinked and will refer to each other depending on the needs of the subject matter as they are related to each other.

In terms of promotions, there is a Committee that assists the Public Service Commission or Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam for the promotion and transfers of Senior Government Officials called the Committee for the Promotion and Transfers of Senior Officials or Jawatankuasa Kenaikan Pangkat dan Pertukaran Pegawai-Pegawai Kanan. A separate committee have also been set up to consider promotions for senior officials in the enforcement agencies under the Prime Minister’s Office, with the exception of the Royal Brunei Police Force which exercises that function under the Police Commission.


Regulations Governing the Civil Service

The Civil Service today is governed by several laws and regulations as follows:-

  • The Public Service Commission Act (Chapter 83 of the Brunei Laws);

  • Regulations made under this PSC Act popularly known as the General Orders which governs rules on appointments, promotions and disciplinary actions;

  • Instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office known as Prime Minister’s Office circulars or popularly known as Surat-Surat Keliling JPM including previous ones issued by the State Secretariat (SUK) and the British Residency Office (BRO) – for instance circulars on acting allowance is still governed by SUK 9/81;

  • Treasury Circulars issued on financial matters; and

  • Financial Regulations 1983 governing procurement and related issues.

Several other government agencies also act as checks and balances to the conduct of civil servants. These include the Anti-Corruption Bureau or Biro Mencegah Rasuah and the Audit Department. The former is responsible for eradicating corruption both in the civil service and government owned entities and the latter is responsible for ensuring that proper accounting and procedures have been followed in carrying out government expenditures.


State of the Civil Service

The Civil Service is the largest employer in the country employing some 12% of the total population. Currently the Civil Service is made up of more than 39,000 employees of which more than 21,000 are women. These are divided into 5 divisions with the first division for Directors and managerial staff, second division for executives and also the entry grade for graduates, the third for supervisory and skilled technical staff and the fourth and fifth for support staff.

The various functional activities within the Civil Service can also be classified into the following specializations:

  • Administrative Service
  • Diplomatic Service
  • Professional/Technical and Executive Service
  • Medical Service
  • Religious Service
  • Educational Services
  • Other Support Services

For all civil servants, there are 2 types of service appointments that are either permanent and temporary services:

  • Permanent – can be either pensionable and non-pensionable but now all new appointments are non-pensionable since 1st January 1993 with the exception for members of the armed forces, police force and prison wardens;

  • Temporary can be one of the four categories –

    • Month-to-month – generally non-graduate married woman officers and staff and those who are re-engage after retirement;

    • Contract – for overseas expatriates and local experts engaged after retirement;

    • Open vote – mainly Brunei citizens who have served as daily paid employees for at least 5 years; and

    • Daily paid – services paid for each day service – generally for very temporary workers or staff and officers awaiting appointment.

With the introduction of the Employees Trust Fund Scheme or in Malay the “Tabung Amanah Pekerja” Scheme in 1993, all appointments regardless of types of appointments are required to contribute to the TAP Scheme, so only permanent appointments made prior to 1st January 1993 are pensionable. Contributions to TAP is a savings of 5% of the staff’s monthly salary with an additional 5% paid by the government and this amount is saved in the TAP accounts and invested by TAP and returned to the staff at the age of 55. Some withdrawals are allowed under certain schemes such as housing etc.

Promotions and disciplinary actions are guided by the General Orders and implemented by the Public Service Commission through a promotion and transfer committee, the PSC itself and the Ministries’ personnel boards.

Ministerial Personnel Boards have also been established at every Ministry where they are responsible to assist the Public Service Commission in recruiting non-common user posts in Divisions 3, 4 and 5. These boards recommend their nominations to the Public Service Commission and the Public Service Commission will make the appointments. Personnel Boards also hear disciplinary cases and submit recommendations to the Public Service Commission.

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