Administrator of the government

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Administrator of the government
Administrator of the Government of North Sumatra Abdul Hakim Nasution, Almanak Pemerintah Daerah Propinsi Sumatera Utara (1969), p27.jpg
Administrator of the Government of North Sumatra Abdul Hakim Nasution

An administrator (administrator of the government or officer administering the government) in the constitutional practice of some countries in the Commonwealth is a person who fulfils a role similar to that of a governor or a governor-general.

Temporary administrators[edit]

Usually the office of administrator is a temporary appointment, for periods during which the governor is incapacitated, outside the territory, or otherwise unable to perform his or her duties. The process for selecting administrators varies from country to country.


In the Commonwealth of Australia, the administrator is usually called the administrator of the Commonwealth. State governors hold a dormant commission and by convention the longest-serving state governor becomes administrator.[1]

In the states of Australia, the administrator is usually the chief justice of the state's supreme court or the next most senior justice. In 2001, the Constitution of Queensland was amended to restore the office of lieutenant-governor in that state.


An "administrator of the government" in Canada is a constitutional practice where an individual is empowered to perform the functions of the office of the governor general in the event that the governor general is incapable of rendering their constitutional duties, or if the position of Governor General is vacant following a resignation or death.[2] The provisions to select the administrator of the government in Canada is outlined in Article VIII of the Letters Patent, 1947; which identifies that the Chief Justice of Canada assumes the role as administrator should the need arise. In the absence of the chief justice, the senior Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is designated as the administrator of the government.[2] Prior to the signage of the Letters Patent, 1947, the administrator of the government was directly appointed by the monarch.[3] An administrator of the government is not required if a governor general is absent for less than 30 days, with the governor general empowered to designate a "deputy governor general" to act on their behalf.[2] Richard Wagner is the most recent in Canada designated as the "administrator of the government," having been sworn in to the position on 23 January 2021 after the resignation of Julie Payette.[4]

The constitutional practice of an "administrator of the government" is also found within the provinces of Canada, with provincial administrators of the government assuming the functions of the office of the lieutenant governor in the event that office is vacant or its holder is incapable of rendering their duties. A justice of a provincial superior court is designated as a provincial administrator of government. The term "administrator" is also used in the Canadian territory of Yukon, although the position of administrator in Yukon is analogous to a "deputy commissioner of Yukon".[5]


In Ceylon, the officer administering the government in the absence of the Governor General of Ceylon was the Chief Justice of Ceylon. In the absence of the chief justice the acting chief justice would serve in this place. Ceylon had two acting Governor Generals.

Hong Kong[edit]

When Hong Kong was a British Crown colony the chief secretary (colonial secretary before 1976) would be the acting governor, followed by the financial secretary and the attorney general. The practice has remained after the transfer of sovereignty to China. Rotation takes place between the chief secretary for administration (formerly chief secretary), the financial secretary and the secretary for justice (formerly attorney general) as the acting chief executive.

New Zealand[edit]

Under letters patent issued in 1983 and revised in 2006, the Chief Justice of New Zealand will be administrator, followed by the other judges of the New Zealand judiciary in order of seniority.


Papua New Guinea[edit]

As a former External Territory of Australia, the head of the territory's administration was called the Administrator of Papua-New Guinea before independence in 1975. The appointment was by the Governor-General of Australia on the advice of the Australian Minister of External Territories. The minister for external territories consulted with the territory's chief minister as part of the appointment process.


On 11 November 1965, the self-governing British colony of Southern Rhodesia made a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) although it continued to recognise the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, as head of state, with oaths of allegiance to "Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Rhodesia, her heirs and successors".[6] However, the Rhodesian Front government of Ian Smith ceased to recognise the authority of her de jure representative, Governor Sir Humphrey Gibbs.[7]

Instead, on 17 November, it appointed the former deputy prime minister, Clifford Dupont, to the post of "acting officer administering the government".[8] Opponents of UDI who considered it an illegal move, such as the independent member of the legislative assembly, Ahrn Palley, refused to recognise Dupont's office, and walked out of the opening of parliament when Dupont came to deliver the Speech from the Throne.[9]

On 2 December, Smith wrote a personal letter to the queen, asking her to accept Dupont as the new governor-general.[10] In response, he was told that "Her Majesty is not able to entertain purported advice of this kind, and has therefore been pleased to direct that no action shall be taken upon it".[11]

Under the 1965 draft constitution, if the queen did not appoint a governor-general within fourteen days of advice being tendered by the prime minister, a regent was to be appointed.[12] In deference to the Royal Family, however, on 16 December, Smith amended his original plan to appoint a Regent and Dupont was appointed as "officer administering the government".[13]

Consequently, legislation passed after UDI was "enacted by His Excellency the Officer Administering the Government, as the representative of the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Parliament of Rhodesia".[14] Dupont would continue to use the title until 1970.[15] When Rhodesia adopted a republican constitution that year, he became the first President of Rhodesia.

The country was renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia in 1979, before it returned to colonial status following the Lancaster House Agreement later that year. In 1980, it achieved internationally recognised independence as Zimbabwe.

Permanent administrators[edit]

The term administrator is also used for a permanent officer representing the head of state where the appointment of a governor would be inappropriate; it is also used for the representative of a governor.


There is no administrator in the Australian Capital Territory and the chief minister is elected by the legislative assembly.


In the Union territories of India, which are ruled directly by the Union government, the President of India appoints an administrator.[16] Administrators differ from the governors of the states of India in that they are an agent of the president and not a head of state.[17]

The president may also appoint the governor of a neighbouring state to be the administrator of a union territory. Since 1985 the Governor of Punjab has acted as the Administrator of Chandigarh. In five union territories: Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Puducherry; the administrator uses the title "lieutenant governor".

New Zealand[edit]

United Kingdom overseas possessions[edit]


United States[edit]

In the United States, the rank of administrator denotes a high-level civilian official within the United States federal government. Generally an official of sub-cabinet rank, an administrator is appointed by the President of the United States with the consent of the United States Senate and assigned to run a specific US government agency. Administrators often manage major agencies housed within specific cabinet departments (e.g., Research and Innovative Technology Administration within the United States Department of Transportation) while others are stand-alone agencies (e.g., the United States Environmental Protection Agency).[citation needed]


During mandatory times, the high commissioner was deputized by an administrator in case of high commissarial vacancy, and a deputy to the high commissioner when the high commissioner remained in office but temporarily could not fulfill his duties. Both posts were held ex-officio by the chief secretary. The rules for deputizing the analogous office in modern-day Israel, the president, are similar, with an interim president analogous to the administrator and an acting president analogous to the deputy to the high commissioner. However, these posts are held not by the prime minister, whose office is analogous to that of the chief secretary, but by the Speaker of the Knesset.[citation needed]

Sources and references[edit]


  1. ^ Role of the Administrator at the Governor-General of Australia site
  2. ^ a b c "Canadian Parliamentary Institutions". Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  3. ^ "Parliamentary Institutions Notes 51–100". Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  4. ^ Burke, Ashley (21 January 2021). "Payette stepping down as governor general after blistering report on Rideau Hall work environment". CBC News. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  5. ^ "Choice of Next Commissioner Praised." Chuck Tobin, the Whitehorse Star, 1 December 2010. Accessed 1 March 2011.
  6. ^ International Law Reports, Volume 52, E. Lauterpacht, Cambridge University Press, 1979, page 53
  7. ^ Ian Smith Strips Gibbs Of All Official Privilege, Associated Press, The Morning Record, 18 November 1965
  8. ^ East Africa and Rhodesia, Volume 42, Africana, 1965, page 339
  9. ^ Africa Report, Volumes 11-12, African-American Institute, 1966, page 44
  10. ^ The New Law Journal, Volume 127, Butterworth, 1978, page 529
  11. ^ The International and Comparative Law Quarterly, Volume 20, page 659, 1971
  12. ^ The Constitution of Rhodesia, 1965, Government Printer, 1965, page 7
  13. ^ Rhodesia and the United Nations: UN Imposition of Mandatory Sanctions 1966, Avrahm G. Mezerik, International Review Service, 1966, pages 39-40
  14. ^ Annual Survey of African Law Cb: Volume Three : 1969, editors E. Cotran, N.N. Rubin, Routledge, 1973, page 171
  15. ^ Rhodesian Commentary, Volumes 3-5, 1970, page 72
  16. ^ Union Territories. Know India: National Portal of India Archived 26 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ M Laxmikanth (2004). Indian Polity (3rd ed.).