Brief notes on Advisory role of civil servants in policy making


Rendering policy advice to the political executive is the most important “staff function” of the civil servant. Policy making is the ultimate responsibility of the Minister. After a policy is approved by the; elected government, it is duty of the civil servant to implement such policy in the right earnest whether he/she agrees with it or not.

At the same time, it is the duty of the civil servant to provide the factual basis, thorough analysis of all possible implications of any measure under consideration and free and frank advice, without fear or favour, at the stage of policy formulation.

It is unfortunate that at times senior civil servants get bogged down in routine administrative decision making and are unable to co tribute adequately to this crucial aspect of their functions. However, for civil servants to be able provide appropriate policy inputs, they must acquire the necessary combination of a broad perspective of the sector as well as of the Government as a whole, combined with conceptual clarity and requisite knowledge.


If a policy that is being formulated is perceived by the civil servant to be against public interest, hi,” her responsibility is to convince the political executive about the adverse implications of such a policy. However, if the political executive does not agree with such an advice, there is little that the civil servant can do other than putting his/her views clearly on record.

It is for the other institutional mechanisms; such as Parliament, the CAG, Judiciary and ultimately the electorate to hold the political executive to account for bad policy.

In order to ensure that senior civil servants have adequate time to focus their attention on their’ ‘policy advice role’, the Commission is making detailed recommendations on separation of staff and functions, in a separate report.

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