Thursday, February 22, 2024

Explanation and Justification of so Many Permanent Secretaries for Special Duties at Cabinet Office



By Nicholas Phiri

Dear Colleagues, I have noted with interest the debate on the number of Permanent Secretaries for Special Duties. It is important that we respond to this and put things in perspective. Allow me to start with the obvious: government positions are filled up based on the approved staff establishment of a respective arm of government. Currently, Cabinet Office has 4 Permanent Secretaries incharge of Special Duties.

No new office has been created.

Two questions that have arisen are around the specific tasks of Permanent Secretary for Special Duties and the cost of running those offices. Before I can proceed, let me state clearly that it is not true that the previous administration had one Permanent Secretary for Special Duties. There were actually two. What is true though is that they may not have had a well-defined job description.

What are those Special Duties?

Well, let me start from the basics again. Cabinet Office is the epicenter of the civil service. The effectiveness of the civil service depends on this office. Administratively, all Permanent Secretaries report to Secretary to Cabinet and are accountable to Secretary to the Cabinet for contractual deliverables. Secretary to the Cabinet through Cabinet runs the civil service on behalf of the President of the Republic of Zambia.

In practice, it means that Secretary to Cabinet has to work closely with all Permanent Secretaries across sectors and categories to facilitate and ensure efficient service delivery. This is not only exhausting but a recipe for poor service delivery as the amount of work is way too much for one office.

In order to address the above challenge, the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Special Duties at the Cabinet Office comes in handy. Permanent Secretaries Special Duties are Permanent Secretaries without a portfolio. They literally cut across all government ministries, departments, programs, and activities.

Some tasks are specific and defined while other tasks are delegated from the Office of the Secretary to Cabinet and Office of the President as they unfold. While I understand the concern about the cost, I don’t understand what standard is being used to call it as being high.

What is the cost-benefit analysis?

Just for interest, members of the public may wish to know that the office of the Permanent Secretary for Special Duties doesn’t come with any additional staff. At Cabinet Office, there is what is referred to as common services office.

This office has directors and support staff in human resource, procurement, finance, audit, etc which service all the divisions under Cabinet office use.

As it stands today, we have to deal with issues of compliance to government policies, CDF issues, depoliticize the civil service, unite the country, undertake targeted reforms, seal financial leakages, and many other things. While portfolio Permanent Secretaries will be implementing this, Special Duties will support ministries to ensure that they succeed.

I thought we could help put the discussion in context.

The Author is Permanent Secretary for Special Duties at Cabinet Office,


  1. Author is Permanent Secretary for Special Duties at Cabinet Office, He should have let an independent person do this. Trying to justify the unjustifiable.

  2. Author of this article is an idyot…..
    The Cabinet Office has now become a brothel. Count how many $ex happens a day in those offices because people have to do?

  3. This is the worst crap coming from Cabinet Office. Silence is golden, you could have been deemed wise if you shut your mouth. Who doesn’t know that those appointments are for political appeasement? The long standing establishment at Cabinet Office is for two PSs for special duties reporting to the SC.

  4. There is no limit to the number of ministers a president can appoint but due to cost saving measures and limited resources he will limit this number to between 20 and 30. The same should be for PS state house. Even if he is allowed to appoint even 10 permanent secretaries a prudent and cost effective President will only appoint one.

  5. Such pettiness from the bloggers above. Had it been an outsider writing, they would have wanted someone in cabinet office to write. They vowed to be petty for the next four years.
    Thank you Mr Phiri for that clarification. Continue with your Special Duties.

  6. What hogwash!
    These job seekers awe mwandi, just sick jockerz. Ati Permanent Secretary to the office of the first lady special duties. Next we will have a Permanent Secretary Special duties to the IMF, Permanent Secretary Special duties on Vasco Dagaming planning.
    In the damn end it’s a blotted Government; all Secretaries without Ministries but with special duties to syphon public funds. Lean Government is only in opposition. Trial and error administration. No proper justification whatsoever.

  7. The duties are special…also fill up the postiion of Minister without portfolio, and Special Advisor Projects……dont forget to replace the deputy governor adminsitration at boz…never mind the special assistant to the secretary to the treasury…..the Ambassadors and High Commissioners too

  8. There was no need to explain these positions to people whose mind set is already against the ides of PS Special Duties. Silence is Gold.

  9. Nicholas Phiri is another dunderhead siphoning money from government coffers without shame. There was no need of writing such garbage to justify your wastefulness. Who does not know that HH is a counterfeit in state house appointing unqualified people lie you, Nicholas? Do not lecture us on wastefulness.

  10. If the job is too much for one person then that person is not fit for the job. When the late Dr Roland Msiska joined the Sata led government at Cabinet Office he wrote a paper about how Zambian civil servants are the LEAST productive in the region. He had led the civil service in Namibia so, he knew what he was talking about. Truth be told, Zambians ARE lazy. Just see how many people spend time on social media from 08:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday, compared to Saturdays and Sundays and the evenings. On Monday morning and Friday afternoon, you would be lucky to be served in a government office. The default help statement is, ‘Come next week.’

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